No, this isn’t a gardening post, though that’s where I got the idea.
This is a gratitude post.
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While I was going through my sketches for last Saturday’s garden post, I remembered that I need a new pair of secateurs. That got me thinking back to when I bought the last pair. It was moons ago. And now, I can’t go back to the source because the shop has closed.
It was a small shop, in a wood-frame house that had to be a century home. Downstairs, the dusty space was filled with garden tools, fertilizers, seeds, pots, gloves, and all of the things that a gardener might need.
The old floorboards were wide and creaky. If they had once been varnished, evidence of those days was long gone. Every corner and shelf in the shop had some sort of merchandise tucked into it. The space had obviously taken a lifetime of arranging and rearranging to achieve its look of relaxed chaos.
Upstairs, the proprietors enjoyed their daily life when the shop was quiet. You see, they were husband and wife. And their partnership had been fine-tuned in the decades of their marriage.
Having no children, the couple spoiled their fat, gray tabby, who wandered the store aisles imperially.
Walking into this shop felt like going home. It was always warm and quiet, except for the banter between the couple. Mostly, they spoke to each other cordially, but every once in a while, you’d stumble on an argument, watching the battle without understanding the battle lines or ammunition. The two of them, Mary and Louis, were funny and real.
And, they knew everything about gardening.
I was convinced that I needed a pair of high-end, costly pruners. They sold these, as well as a mid-price model. When I asked Mary for confirmation that I should go with the high-priced pair, she respectfully disagreed.
“Well, I have these less expensive ones, and they work really well.”
“Really?” I was skeptical. “Do you think they’ll last.”
“Oh, absolutely,” she answered.
Who was I to argue with such wisdom?
She was, of course, right. That was twenty years ago. I’m fairly sure that I could get my husband to sharpen the blades, and they would do for another ten; but, I think I’d like a new pair. Maybe I can get someone to help me when it’s time to prune and cut back!
For fifteen years, I would patronize the little garden shop and pick up tips from Mary and Louis.
Then, one day I went in and Mary was alone. She said that I was her last customer for the day. She was closing up to take Louis to his dialysis.
She told me that she would probably not be selling trays of annuals in the spring, as it was too much work for her to handle herself.
I helped her move some pots into the shade under the awning. Then, I took home the seed mix she recommended and filled in some bare spots in the lawn.
Fall turned to winter, and winter to spring.
The next time I was in the shop, Mary was again working alone. She told me that Louis had died, and that she was selling the store. It was going to reopen not as a garden supply, but as an apparel store. She was looking forward to traveling to Florida next winter, to taking a water aerobics class that she never had time to take before, and to the freedom that relinquishing the shopkeeper mantle would give her.
She was a trooper. I knew that she and Louis had loved what they did. Now, she was bravely conquering the next chapter of her life. I could detect only a little sadness in her, because her personality just didn’t allow it. But, mine did; and I was sad to lose her, and the shop, and all the wisdom that went with her and with Louis.
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I am thankful for everything I learned about gardening from Mary and Louis. I’m glad that I patronized the store and resisted the lure of the gleaming, white, football-field sized aisles of the big-box, home improvement store. Mary and Louis offered much more than any mega store could hope to match.
I wish that Mary knew how much I loved her store, and appreciated what she and Louis had spent their lives building. I haven’t seen her around town, so I’m not sure what she’s up to these days. Maybe she has moved, or even “moved on.”
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So, let’s bring this post full circle.
It is a great gift to achieve contentment, and we should spend time and energy figuring out what we need to do to make ourselves happy.
We should also spend some effort expressing gratitude to those who enrich our lives; those who are sometimes overlooked because they are on the periphery of our everyday routines.
Who might you thank today? They would, no doubt, be thrilled to know that someone appreciates their efforts.
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