Friday, November 25, 2011

Monday, November 14, 2011

November Bloom Day

We had our first frost last week. The pickins are slim out there these days, yet we can still find a few blooms in the garden.

The mini-rose has been known to bloom in December, even in the snow. This might be the last flower of the season though, since there are no more buds.

Geranium 'Rozanne' blooms from late May or early June until frost. She's looking a bit bedraggled, but I'll say she deserves a shoutout for making it to mid-November.

Bunnies like heuchera blooms this time of year. This nice, fresh bloom scape on a small division of 'Autumn Bride' heuchera has eluded them so far.

'Blue Hill' salvias have been churning out blooms all summer. No busy bees hanging around here anymore as they did in warmer days.

The only mum left with blooms. All the rest have succumbed to the bunnies. I like how Heuchera villosa 'Mocha's bloom scape is mingling with the mums.

The tall bellflowers have been blooming since May.

A native Great Blue lobelia seedling still has a couple of blooms left.

A few native asters remain, and the hardy cyclamen in the header photo is still blooming too. There's a beautiful cimicifuga (I prefer the old name) here that blooms in November, but our hot, dry summer melted the buds. Oh well, maybe next year!

Happy November Bloom Day! To see more Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day posts, please visit our host, Carol at May Dreams Gardens.

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Old Neighborhood

Funny how certain details stick in one's mind. I still remember the phone number and address from my childhood home.

A social media party at The Yarden on the eve of the 2011 Independent Garden Center Show in August provided an opportunity to visit Albany Park, the northside melting-pot immigrant neighborhood where my family lived during my early years. Wanting to avoid Chicago's infamous rush hour traffic, I headed up north early enough to visit the Peterson Garden Project, and to take a walk through the old neighborhood, just a few minutes' drive from the event later that evening.

The neglected front yard would probably mortify our old landlord. He took great pride in his postage-stamp front lawn, mowing it every week with his green rotary mower whether it was needed or not.

Going back to the old neighborhood last summer brought a flood of happy memories. Although the Jewish bakery our delicious challah and onion rolls came from, the ice cream shop Dad took us to every time we lost a baby tooth, the school store where a child's allowance could buy a big bag of penny candies, and the Treasure Island our groceries came from are all gone now, the neighborhood where our family spent our early years looks much the same as it did over forty years ago.

the dining room window

Back then breakfast and lunch were sit-down family meals, usually in the kitchen on weekdays, and in the dining room on the weekends. Sometimes our milkman would be invited to join the family for breakfast. Dinner was always in the dining room. Even with the shade drawn, the dining room window evokes memories of our antique, upright piano piled high with sheet music, and the beautiful dining room table and buffet with thick, hand-turned legs where we found nooks and crannies to hide the peas and lima beans on our plates when Mom wasn't looking. (That is, until we were busted by that funny smell she noticed.)

I remember sleeping in the dining room under that window with my sister so Aunt Natalie could have our room the week she came to help Mom take care of us after our youngest brother was born.

Across the street where Rachel, one of my best friends lived, is a front yard much like the ones I remember - neatly-manicured lawns, and lots of flowers. New windows and siding were added to many of the buildings, and most of the front yards are now fenced. Otherwise, the old block looks much as I remember it.

My first sleepover ever was at Rachel's house. I've always thought "sleepover" was a misnomer - we were up all night.

Rachel's mom made the best tamales in the whole neighborhood. She and Mom were good friends, and, Rachel's mom always shared a big batch of her tamales with us. Some were savory, and some were sweet, and besides Mom's cooking and Dad's chocolate chip cookies, they are among my favorite food memories growing up here. That's saying a lot in a neighborhood where moms from all over the world made their specialties and shared covered dishes with each other so we kids could grow up loving those wholesome and delicious from-scratch ethnic foods. Fast food and sit-down restaurants were rare treats in our world. We grew up loving real food made in our mothers' kitchens, and learning to cook when we all pitched in to help with dinner.

I haven't seen Rachel since we were kids.

I wonder how her life turned out. I still see her as a sweet, carefree, smart, pretty girl with shining dark hair and big brown eyes.

Our neighborhood was religiously and ethnically diverse. We had a synagogue at the end of our block, but my siblings and I went to church and Saturday catechism a few blocks away. Standing atop a gleaming copper dome, Our Lady was a beacon in the distance as we walked to church.

As a child I thought she was beautiful and mysterious. (That was before I had a zoom lens.)

I was never too excited about the outside of our church. It seemed kind of imposing, austere and dreary.

Once inside though, it felt completely different. I thought it was a beautiful, magical, spiritual place where I could feel close to God.

I remember feeling awed by the scale of things, the stained-glass windows, and the ornate altar. Even though I didn't speak Latin and understood little of what the Mass was about, I was never bored since there were so many interesting things to look at.

Nearly everything seems just as I remembered, including the baptismal font. I expected it all to be much smaller than I recalled. Instead I came away surprised at how big it still seemed.

Father Reardon lived here, in the rectory. He was young, handsome, compassionate, and gave the easiest penance. The line outside his confessional was always the longest!

As a little girl, I wanted to grow up to be a nun so I could marry Father Reardon.

I changed my mind about being a nun when I found out they couldn't get married.

Nuns could garden . . .

. . . but I could garden too, and still get married and have kids. That was about the time I fell in love with Mitchy Braun next door. For our first date we went to the soda shop. He bought a hot dog and a malt. We split the hot dog and had two straws for the malt. Allowance only went so far for seven-year-olds, even in the 1960's. Mitchy's and my love life consisted of picking out furniture and baby toys from the Sears catalog for our future family, and hanging out on the front stoop with the other kids until our moms called us in for dinner.

The school at the end of our block, where I spent my early elementary-school years. At least from the outside, the school was every bit as big as I remembered.

In kindergarten, we sat on this little ledge when the bell rang, waiting for Mrs. Meyerbach to shepherd us up the stairs and into our class. She was a stocky, grandmotherly woman who wore bejeweled cat-eye glasses, stockings with seams, and thick orthopedic shoes with black laces. I loved Mrs. Meyerbach, until, at the end of my first year of school, she told Mom it wasn't good for me to be left-handed, and she should teach me how to use my right hand before sending me back to school in the fall. Thankfully, Mom ignored her well-meaning advice. It took a while, but eventually I forgave Mrs. Meyerbach.

All of our teachers played piano, and there was a piano in every classroom. Music wasn't a special class. It was part of the curriculum throughout the day. Since we lived so close to school, we went home for lunch every day.

While the school looks much the same as it did over 40 years ago,

the gardens are new.

It was wonderful seeing prairie blooms and grasses growing where once there was only lawn. After enjoying the school gardens, I took one last walk to the middle of the block to say goodbye to the old house before heading off to party at The Yarden.

Kindergarten class photo. That's me - top row, first on the left, in a dress Mom made me.