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The Garden in the City

by Amy Kenneley

With "babushkas" tied on our heads and winter coats buttoned up against the wild winds, Mother and I waited for the Euclid Avenue trolley to take us downtown.

Soon I could see its yellow shape in the distance. We hurried to the median platform in the middle of the street to climb on. The trolley was packed with people, so Mom and I had to stand.

We all swayed downtown. The rhythmical, side-to-side swing and the "ting-ting" of the trolley car bell was soothing. Halfway down the car length, by the exit doors, was a small black stove glowing with coals. I held my wet mittens over it, and the melting snow sizzled like bacon on a griddle.

Suddenly we were at the Public Square, and people were moving us off. Where we were going I didn't know. I kept asking, but Mom kept saying, "It's a surprise."

After a few blocks of walking with the wind pushing us onward, our boots slipping and sliding in the slush, we came to a large building of gray stone with many sets of steps. Up we went with everyone else.

After waiting in line, Mother reappeared with two tickets; we entered through one of many sets of doors. Wide ramps lead down, down, down many levels. I stood at the top, looking at the scene spread below me. It was my first visit to the Home and Flower Show.

It was the smell which first took my breath away…the smell of growing things. Below were beautiful gardens, and they shouted "Spring!" and it was all wafting its way up to my small self.

Gardens in the middle of the city, in the middle of winter, in the middle of slush and grime and cold winds-wow! We walked slowly down the ramp, admiring the pastel of tulips and forsythia and daffodils and cherry trees and magnolias and all sorts of things I had never seen before and only much later learned to name. That day I only knew them by scent-ginger-crisp smells, and honey-sweet smells, dark green and moist earth smells-- they all blended into a heady mixture.

As we followed the ramp down, each individual garden was exposed, fairy-tale places with trickling water, small pools, benches, pergolas, trellises. I had never seen such beautiful gardens and didn't know the words to describe what was in them.

But I could touch, and I did. The petal-soft feel of opening buds and the leathery feel of leaves-all was a wonderment of living, breathing things. I could almost feel the inhale and exhale of the plants.

But ah, the gardens were only the beginning-it was the Home AND Flower Show, after all. Mother and I tramped through houses built right inside the huge spaces. Imagine! Whole houses put together 1-2-3 just for a week's time.

Houses full of the latest colors, fabrics, appliances. Houses of the future! We oohed and aahed our way through, waiting in patient lines with others who wanted to see what a few thousand dollars could buy. Oh, for those few thousand dollars and a place to put a house!

There were displays of all kinds and for every desire. We walked up one aisle after another, and each aisle left me wondering if all the things I saw that day would ever be in our house, or used by us. There was a bounty here which I hadn't seen before. No more rationed sugar or shoes, no more make-over or make-do. Here was the bounty of every production line and every basement gadget-maker in the country.

What a great country this was, to have all this to buy, to see.

If I was good and let Mom examine every aisle, every Magic Kitchen Slicer and every Instant Jewelry Cleaner booth, then we would have a treat.

Up and down, up and down-my boots weighed a ton by now, and I dragged them relentlessly onward. Oh, would Mother NEVER tire!

The last stop was the lavender booth. There was lavender soap, lavender water, lavender sachets. You could smell your way right to the booth from fifty feet away. My prize for being patient was a little wicker-woven basket filled with lavender-a closet sachet.

All the way home I took turns poking my head into the lavender bag and inhaling that heady scent.

I thought about all the wonderful things I had seen that day, and wished mightily for the dollars to have them all-a lovely house, a garden filled with flowers, the fine furniture, the big refrigerators -and yes, even the Instant Jewelry Cleaner, even though I had no jewelry to clean anyway.

The lavender flask went under my pillow instead of into the closet. Each night I fell asleep inhaling that wonderful smell. The lavender scent lasted for months and months, and long after the scent was gone, I kept the little wicket basket under my pillow, just for remembrance.

Even today, the pungent scent of the wet spring earth, the unfolding of forsythia, the scent of the lavender soap on the closet shelf, and I am instantly back on the topmost level of the Home and Flower Show. I am eight again, and the whole world is below me, full of wonderful things.




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