Although this could very well be a picture of me finding a new treasure at a favorite nursery, it's actually an illustration by David Catrow for a children's book called Plantzilla.

Monday, May 9, 2016

In A Vase On Monday: A Sentimental Journey

In A Vase On Monday is hosted each week by the inspirational and resourceful Cathy at Rambling in the Garden. Click here to see what she and other participating bloggers have put together this week. 

Every family has treasured stories.  This one comes from before I remember it happening.  At that time my family lived in Vermont in a picturesque red-shuttered white house with a big red barn on a little hill above a river.  The driveway crossed a bridge over the river, was flanked with rows of weeping willow trees that my father planted as little sticks cut from his sister's tree in Connecticut. We kids would stand on the bridge and watch the river as we waited for the school bus.  Up the hill a bit were what seemed to me to be an ancient oak and maple  tree.   The house and barn sat on a level spot  and to the side and behind the barn there was a little hill (our ski and sledding hill) that went up to the higher field where we'd pick wild strawberries on summer days and see fireflies at night.  What on earth does this have to do with today's arrangement and one of a set of carved wooden shoes which, by luck actually fit me?

One of my sisters, we'll call her Peggy to protect the innocent, was an active child and wore through or lost a lot of shoes. Another sister, the eldest of the five of us, (For the sake of the story, we'll call her Dirce.) was more responsible and took much better care of her shoes. In those days, most children didn't have a closet full of footwear in every trendy style and brand as many do now.  My parents were young and didn't have a lot of money.  My father gave Peggy a new pair of shoes after she'd lost or worn out her last pair and said that if she lost these, she'd have to wear the wooden shoes he had down cellar (west coast translation - in the basement)  No one seems to remember where those shoes came from just that complete with painted dutch scenes, they were always down there.   You can guess the rest of the story. On the first day that Peggy wore her new shoes, while waiting for the school bus, she was kicking her feet and one of the shoes flew off and into the river.  The older sisters, Dirce and Kathy, teased her and begged our father to make her wear the wooden shoes. Instead, much to Dirce's consternation, Peggy got to wear a pair of Dirce's shoes.  

The original wooden shoes from the empty threat probably got left behind when we moved to Alaska but we always think of Peggy whenever we see wooden shoes.  The one pictured came from a thrift store years ago because they made me laugh aloud thinking of the story and because they fit, I wore them one Thanksgiving to greet Peggy at the door when she arrived. 

This vase, bought when I was in my early teens at a sale in Alaska, is fitting because I wanted to use the parrot tulips before they dropped their petals.  They've bloomed nicely outside and are starting to fade.  Perfect for this vase from the 20's which is also a bit past it's prime. Notice the wooden shoes?

 Parrot tulips, forgot the variety, a couple of weeks ago.

I didn't know anything about this pottery or it's maker until searching the interweb today.  Isn't the information age interesting? 

The bracken fern which pops up everywhere in my garden here is a reminder of my niece and I digging some up with our hands on a hike to bring back to my sister's garden.  They don't spread as rampantly in gardens in the north. The forget-me-nots are included because of their name and because they're the state flower of Alaska. 

These started blooming with the mid season tulips but have held their flowers for several weeks while the others ceased blooming at least a week ago.

Their flamboyant petals will soon fall and all that will be left is the memory of the spring they bloomed so beautifully.  Half were grown in a large pot so I'll fertilize it well and keep it hot and dry during the summer and see if they return next season. 

Thank goodness for memories that make us smile, and for dear people with whom to share them! 

      HEN I lie where shades of darkness
      Shall no more assail mine eyes,
      Nor the rain make lamentation
      When the wind sighs;
      How will fare the world whose wonder
      Was the very proof of me?
      Memory fades, must the remember'd
      Perishing be?
      Oh, when this my dust surrenders
      Hand, foot, lip, to dust again,
      May these loved and loving faces
      Please other men!
      May the rusting harvest hedgerow
      Still the Traveller's Joy entwine,
      And as happy children gather
      Posies once mine.
      Look thy last on all things lovely,
      Every hour. Let no night
      Seal thy sense in deathly slumber
      Till to delight
      Thou have paid thy utmost blessing;
      Since that all things thou wouldst praise
      Beauty took from those who loved them
      In other days.
Walter de la Mare


  1. What an endearing back story, and lovely arrangement too!

  2. Such a fun story about the wooden shoes. And a lovely arrangement.

  3. Loved the story and a perfect vase with wooden shoe(s)...and my that tulip is stunning in the vase!

  4. The story and the arrangement are wonderful!

    Tilting at Windmill, I see a trend here...

  5. That shoe really fits the arrangement! (Love the backstory too)

  6. And I forgot to say: your childhood home sounds pretty amazing.

    1. I'm lucky to have experienced childhood in that setting and in a small town in Alaska!

  7. Wow Peter you certainly can paint a picture with your words, I felt like I was there, in Vermont with you. What a great arrangement, those tulips are like a painting and putting them with the other items was inspired. It's also pretty amazing that you still have a vase bought in your early teens.

    1. I've become much better about getting rid of things but still keep lots of things that are interesting to me or have some memory to go with them.

  8. I don't know which I like more; the story of the wooden shoes, the old vase and fading but still flamboyant flowers, or the lovely nostalgic tone of this post. But I think the winner is that description of your childhood home, so idyllic, right out of a Norman Rockwell painting. Sigh.

    1. You know how nostalgia is but it really was a sweet setting, a picture of which was featured on a Vermont calendar many years ago.

  9. The completed vase and its wooden shoe prop in the last photo is wonderful in itself but made more so with your story. I wonder what Peggy - or for that matter, Dirce - would say if they read your post?

    1. They both read my blog but I've not heard from either of them today. Perhaps they're plotting revenge.

  10. The Scentimental Journey song is going around in my head, we did a dance to it in Jr. High PE. What a touching childhood story, Peter, I also had a family of 5 children, and was #2, oldest girl, and wore my shoes for a year while my sister dragged her heels and needed 2 pairs for a year. The parrot tulips are very flamboyant and the old vase and wooden shoes are great props!

  11. Amazing that you still have tulips blooming. I'll have to look for this verity for next season.
    I have one plain wooden shoe that was carved in front of me when I visited Holland, but nothing like your magnificent shoe: what a cool thrift store find!
    The question left un answered in my mind is: are you the little dutch boy?

    1. There are several nationalities in my background but Dutch isn't one of them. My mother loved all things Dutch though. These tulips were an impulse buy at a nursery and I've loved them!

  12. Thank you for sharing such precious memories! I have a pair of wooden shoes I use to walk outside with when it is quite wet. I bought them in Holland years ago and they hang on my kitchen door. I actually keep my nippers in one. The arrangement is lovely! Happy Spring Peter : )

  13. Oh Peter, what a lovely story you have woven round your vintage vase of tulips. A delight as always - thanks for sharing

  14. I would have loved to see the reaction when you came to the door wearing those showes!

  15. Lovely memories in your nostalgic vase today. It has a Dutch theme with the clogs and the tulips. And what gorgeous sumptuous parrot tulips they are.


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