“These voices in speak instead and
what’s right is wrong
And I’m giving into them, please
Lord, how long
Will I be held captive by the lies that I
My heart’s in constant chaos and it
keeps me so deceived
…. So empty my hands, fill up my heart, capture my mind with You.”—
Mimi and Papa’s house sits on Montego Road in the Sunshine State. Four Bradford pear trees line the street, and once a month Papa climbs his old, rusted ladder to trim those dark green trees up into perfect triangles. At the top of the concrete driveway and under the car port, there is a small wooden gate. As I reach over the worn fence, my hand catches the small, smooth latch, and I pull it free. I can feel happy memories rushing past as I wander into Mimi’s backyard; it looks as if I had never left.
Directly behind the gate is a small path made of stepping stones, leading to the porch. Under the wooden awning, there is a glass table and two chairs covered in pieces of carpet, so they are soft and comfortable. A small green stool is perched on one of the light metal chairs to protect it from the rain. To the right of that chair hangs a white wooden porch swing, wide enough for two to sit together. A patterned table cloth is carefully laid on the seat, to protect it from the rain. Mom and Mimi often sit there for hours at a time talking and laughing with each other, while Papa and I look for something to do in the garage.
Jade plants line the edge of the porch, their slick green leaves shining in the sunlight. The sweet sound of wind chimes fill the yard as the warm southern wind blows through the flowers and trees. Behind the swing there is another stone path leading through a small flower garden next to the fence. Impatiens are sprinkled around the garden, colored purple, magenta and white. These tiny, flat blooms are my Mimi’s favorite flowers. Beyond the fence to the left, I can see the quiet neighborhood street. I can hear Joe, the neighbor, writing a new song on his baby grand piano, his music floating over the fence. In the corner to my right there is a tree with a single limb cut off; Papa painted two blue eyes and a bright red mouth on the stub because he thought it looked lonely.
Over on the opposite end of the yard there is a swing set where I used to play with my Papa, but all that is left is the frame; the swings have been long worn out. Behind the old oak tree stands a single bar, about four feet off the ground, on which Mimi drapes her rugs to air them; my sister, however, mostly used it to flip over and hang from. Right next to the gymnastics bar lays a pile of chopped wood, although it has never been needed in the warm, Florida climate.
In the middle of the yard, Papa’s flower garden is blooming. Zinnia flowers colored violet, pink and orange brush your knees as you pass, every small flower a bit different than the next. They have tiny flower blooms around the center of the zinnia, appearing like a miniature Hawaiian lei. Papa has collard greens growing in between the tall flowers; he cleans them, cooks them, and then shares them with his other elderly neighbors. I have never eaten them, but my mother says they are an acquired taste. Three sunflowers stand tall in the center of the garden, their bright yellow petals and warm brown centers fit right in with all the other plants and flowers.
There is a tall wooden fence that lines the back of the yard, and Papa has planted roses along it. Their sharp thorns give contrast to their soft, red petals. Sweet morning glories are strewn close to the base of the fence; their lavender colored blooms open to the sun in the morning and close by midday. Papa takes special care of his garden because he loves it; but not nearly as much as he loves Mimi.
This is where I grew up. This is where my siblings and I climbed trees, had races around the ever changing garden, played house on the back porch with Mimi, and learned more and more about our beloved grandparents. So many memories come to mind when I think about my Papa’s yard, but there is one that always sticks with me. When I was little, my Mimi would look at me from across the porch and whisper,
“Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.”—Psalm 139:7-12
“God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea….
The LORD Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress…”—Psalm 46:1,2,7
“If ever there is a tomorrow when we’re not together, there is something you must always remember. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is, even if we’re apart, I’ll always be with you.”—Winnie the Pooh