Handfuls of sweet peas for Great Uncle Bill
July brought handful after handful of sweet peas. A handful is the number of times I ever met my Great Uncle Bill. A handful is the number of garden tools of his that I now own. Even though in person Bill wasn’t a regular or considerable part of my life, he certainly is a constant and cherished presence in our family flora folklore.
Every time I pick sweet peas I think of Great Uncle Bill. It holds a lovely memory that isn’t actually a memory at all but something I’ve been told. The tale is that he didn’t call these flowers by their name, he simply called them ‘Cut-and-Come-Agains’. Despite the fact that many plants and flowers possess this quality – and being an experienced and enthusiastic gardener he would have known this – it was the sweet pea that earned this well deserved title in Bill’s garden.
Collecting them for a little vase on my kitchen table, I imagine Great Uncle Bill and Great Aunty Marion in their younger years cutting these elegant, fragrant blooms all summer long, year after year. They would have harvested them much longer than I manage to, because they were experts and I’ve never quite mastered keeping on top of the sweet peas’ needs. I picture Marion and Bill bringing the bunches into their home, displaying them in vases in their kitchen where as an adult I sat many times, enjoying Marion’s company into her 91st year.
I would love to travel back in time to wander around Bill and Marion’s beautiful garden with them. But it makes me glad that Great Uncle Bill is forever so present each year amongst the sweet peas.