Magical garden memories brought on by walk in park and Spring

By John Toth

I’m walking one of my dogs in the park. She may be walking me, as she follows the scent of squirrels to a tree, and then to the next one, and so on. It’s another beautiful Spring day. The birds are singing. The temperature is just right. There is a slight breeze.

We walk over to the fence to see if the blackberry bushes are making a comeback. In another month or so we’ll have fresh blackberries each time we walk. I cannot disclose the location, or there won’t be any blackberries left when I get there.

Soon, the smell of magnolia will dominate a section of this park, a scent that takes me back to my grandmother’s garden when I was a small boy. Anyone with allergies would have had problems in that garden.

She lived in a small, two-room triplex in the back of a nice-sized lot at the edge of Budapest. I looked forward to staying with her each summer, even though the only places she ever took me and my cousin were to the market on the right, and the cemetery on the left. We went to both places frequently.

We played outside for most of the day. We just made stuff up. We often drew a boat in the dirt and pretended we were on a big ship somewhere. We play-acted all kind of scenarios – cops and robbers was always our favorite.

My grandmother’s garden was on the right, and the neighbors’ on the left. It was sectioned off with paths around patches with different flowers and smells. It was always, in my mind, perfect.

We even had a dog to play with. One of the neighbors kept one in front of her home, and we made him ours while we were there. We made sure he had plenty of water and took care of it as well as an 8-year-old could. That dog was ready for our visits. It was canine party time.

The garden also had a working outhouse, which was my least favorite feature. We didn’t have indoor toilets, so if you had to go, it was the outhouse or holding it in for a week. I don’t have any good memories of smells related to this part of my magical garden. But, even in a magical garden there are a few things that aren’t all that perfect.

We did have running water, though. We didn’t have to go out to some well, carrying a bucket. It was only cold water, but as kids we didn’t care. It was just nice to get cleaned up after another busy day in the garden — and walking to the cemetery and the market.

My grandmother and her neighbors often got together and shared a big watermelon she bought at the market. I stuffed myself until I couldn’t even look at it anymore. Then I burped and ate some more.

I recently found an old envelope from my cousin with a return address. After my grandmother died, he inherited her part of the property and bought out the neighbors. The address on the envelope is also the address of my magical garden.

I typed the address into Google Earth. The globe started turning, and in a few seconds, the satellite view of my grandmother’s old home filled up the screen. Except, there is no more garden. The outhouse is gone. The triplex is gone, and right up front stands a nice, new-looking house where I assume my cousin lives.

My father lived in that triplex as a teen-ager before he went off to war and before he met my mother.
I searched for my cousin on the Internet, but no luck. Then, I decided to revert to an old fashioned way of communicating – I mailed him a letter. I hope he still lives there, because this summer I want to be back in that garden (even though there is none anymore), and be again where a little boy played in the dirt all day and had a lot of fun.

Walks in the park on a Spring day tend to bring back memories like this.

The dog is still smelling squirrel tracks, having a great time. I wonder what she would do if she ever caught one? Better yet, what would the squirrel do? Not a pleasant thought. Good thing those squirrels can climb and are not aggressive, otherwise they would do some damage to this spoiled canine.

She is getting water and a treat, and jumps in the minivan. It’s time to go home.