We moved back to Chesterfield County in 1989 after Mac retired from the Navy. I had told him that since I had followed him all over the world for so many years, it was time for him to follow me, and that I was going to Chesterfield. Like any sensible man, he followed. My parents were happy that we were settling nearby and that they would get to be closer to their grandsons.
Mama, who was a master gardener in all but degree, was eager to share her plant knowledge with Mac and me. She took us all over their massive yard pointing out the beds of roses, the huge scattering of daffodils in the woods and in particular the Lady Banks Rose that was growing up the side of the garage. She had planted it as a stripling about 12 inches high and had pampered it and babied it for 10 years. Now in January, she was anxious to show us how she had placed brackets on the garage to secure it to so that it was 15 or so feet up and then swagging down. She told us the blooms this year would be spectacular and it would occur around Easter. I shared in her excitement and every time I went to visit was greeted by the site of the bare-limbed Lady Banks. I would go over and examine it for signs of first leaf.
Okay, now Daddy had a pair of loppers that he used to trim the trees to keep their branches from assaulting him when he was riding the mower or driving the car down the drive. He loved those loppers. They weren’t much to look at as loppers go, but they were kept lovingly oiled and ready for action on a hook on the wall inside the garage. Weekends starting in early spring were dedicated to neatening up flower beds, opening garden plots out back for the veggies that Mama grew with pride and aplomb and general yard work and weeding was carried out. Our younger son Michael enjoyed spending weekends at his “sweet little Grandma’s.” He didn’t mind helping out there, though I couldn’t get him to turn his hand in the yard at home. I would go to pick him up and take the chance to admire the Lady Banks and ooh and ahh over the new leaves it was putting on. It really was going to be glorious this year, I could tell.
So one warm Saturday morning, I took Michael to spend the day at Grandma’s. Daddy was out and about, no suit and tie but dressed in his yard work gear, a well worn pair of khaki shorts an old plaid shirt and faded green hat on his head. Oh, and loppers in hand. He had trimmed the magnolia tree limbs and was clearing the circle of dead branches and weeds that Mama and the kids had pulled. He waved at me as I dropped Michael off. I glanced at the beauty of the Lady Banks and dreamed of having one like it one day.
So it’s about 4:30 that afternoon when the phone rings. On the other end, Michael is breathless with something akin to fear. “Mom, you’ve got to come here quick, Grandma is going to kill Grandpa!”
Okay, now having heard Mama threaten to kill Daddy at least 100 times a year for most of my life, I’m not getting so excited over this piece of news. Stifling a yawn, I ask him casually, “So, what did Grandpa do this time?”
A tremble was in his voice; he couldn’t hide it. “He lopped off Grandma’s Lady Banks.”
I sat straight up, rigid with anger of my own.
“Go tell Grandma to hold on. I’m on my way.”
“So you’re gonna stop her?” he wanted to know.
“Oh no, I’m going to help her!” I told him, a deadly calm in my voice.
I heard him yelling, “Run, Grandpa, run!”
Okay, so we didn’t kill him. But Mama took his loppers away. He was not allowed to use them without strict supervision and only when Mama saw the need of them. Funny, but she didn’t feel the need of their use for many years after that …
Oh and P.S. — yes, I do have a Lady Banks Rose, she is 10 feet high, and no one but no one goes near her with anything sharper than a camera lens.
— Sandi McBride is a resident of Jefferson who blogs regularly and enjoys her garden and her furry and feathered friends. She is a wife and mother of two sons.