Every bride and every groom cherishes tender memories from
childhood. Listen, when they are shared, because you will find yet another
way of getting to know your own beloved one.
I grew up in Bakersfield, in California's hot,
dry Central Valley. Each year my family would travel to San Francisco to visit
my grandparents, Italian immigrants who lived on the slopes of Telegraph Hill
under the shadow of Coit Tower. The Hill still grew wild in those days, with
trees and vines covering the spaces where expensive condos now stand. It was
paradise for kids - we could run through the gardens and vacant lots, up the
paths, and down the old brick staircases built in the time of the Gold Rush.
The lush greenery and
plants that thrived there in the moist, foggy San Francisco climate - hydrangea,
calla lilies, eucalyptus - were so strange to us, so different from those that
grew in the sun-baked home.
My grandparents had a garden that ran along
the Greenwich Steps, clinging to the hillside in a way that must have reminded
them of the childhood home in the Italian Alps which they had left behind. They grew vegetables
(of course) and simple,
old-fashioned garden flowers such as daisies, fuchsias, and roses. The garden
was beautifully tended, but in spite of that they permitted a certain amount of wildness to
remain and tolerated plants like the ivy, nasturtiums, and baby's tears that
crept in from the untamed edges of the Hill, climbing and filling the empty
spaces with enthusiasm.
Of all these wild garden "volunteers," my
favorites were the bunches of tiny blue forget-me-nots that popped up in the
shadiest part of the garden. The tender green leaves and the bright blue flowers
were so fresh and cheerful, and so unlike anything that would have survived in
our hot Bakersfield garden. Whenever my grandmother asked me to go into her
garden and pick flowers for the house, the forget-me-nots were always my first
choice. Mixed with daisies, they fit perfectly into a tiny pewter vase she had
brought with her from Genoa so many years before, a farewell token from her
beloved little sister. Forty years later, the memory of that parting would still
bring tears to her eyes when I proudly put my little arrangement on the table
next to her bed.
The day of my grandmother's funeral, I put the
same beloved little vase, the same favorite blue and white bouquet, on a small
table set in the vastness of the Italian church, to keep company with the simple
brass box that held her ashes. Beside it was a photo of her, happy in her
garden, a basket of flowers on her arm. Now I see the bundles of tiny blossoms
at the Flower Market, blue eyes twinkling from their newspaper wrappings, and
I'm the one who pauses and drifts back in time. They are the key to so many
memories, so much a part of childhood and family and San Francisco, a token of
what is past but not forgotten -- so perfectly named, sweet little
Laurel Ann Winzler
is a florist in San Francisco.