Amazingly Ordinary

daylily, nursery, plantsI met an amazingly ordinary couple this week. They own their own nursery, where they grow and sell day lilies and hostas, hydrangea and roses, astilbes and lavender.

My guy and I visited their little nursery in hopes of filling in some gaps where 8-feet of snow devastated some of our flowering bushes. Although the drive was not far from our village outside of Boston, the green-hooded winding lanes, acreages of pastureland with grazing cows, a farm here, another white-spired church there, made us feel like it could just as easily be 1940, or 1840, instead of 2015.perennials, gardening

A middle-aged couple greeted us in their pebbled driveway, blue and pink and yellow and purple perennials bordering us on either side. They both wore worn patched jeans, straw hats, and tattered garden gloves as they proudly showed us their 30-year-owned leafy garden treasure.

As I contemplated a row of mini-hydrangeas, the woman walked us to her own personal garden in the back of their ramshackle cottage, situated on the property.

hydrangea, gardening, nursery“These hydrangea were planted in 2008,” she commented, peering over at her husband.

He nodded. “Yup. That was when you took a year off.”

I couldn’t believe these people remembered the year they planted different trees and bushes, but instead of saying that, I opened mouth and inserted foot, facing the woman and saying with a smile, “He let you take a year off?”

“Well,” she said softly. “That was the year I had breast cancer.”planting, gardening

Feeling stupid and sad simultaneously, I blurted, “Thank goodness you’re alive!”

Damn. We never know the right thing to say when we hear of bad news, or sad news, or scary news. So we either say nothing (which is bad) or something uncomfortable, which is what I did, figuratively punching myself in the brain.

She grabbed my arm gently to pull me away from the men and whispered, “I know. So in my fantasy, I want…”

“WHAT?” Her husband shouted. “Wait, don’t move away. I want to hear what your fantasy is.” His face, with a 5 o’clock shadow at 2 p.m., salt-and-pepper hair in disarray, hands hardened with blisters, opened up with a longing so real I could feel it.

fantasy, magic bubbleHis wife hesitated. “My fantasy is that we have more bedrooms and another bath, and our kids and grandkids could stay here every holiday.” Her eyes glistened, and her vision shone like a colorful bubble in front of us.

“I can do that for you!” the husband shouted triumphantly. “I can build a few more bedrooms for you. I can!” His eyes shone with fear . . .  and love.

“Um, we need grandkids first,” she answered, smiling.

But somehow I knew that by the end of the summer, that man, overextended with growing and watering and selling hundreds of his bushy labors of love, would start hammering and sawing too.

That’s when I realized how ordinarily extraordinary this couple was.

dandelion, nursery, planting

Photo by Binzy.

On our way out, I picked a dandelion in the parking lot and blew, wishing them many grandchildren, an enlarged cottage, and years more of an amazingly ordinary marriage.

84 thoughts on “Amazingly Ordinary

  1. They sound like an amazing couple. I think what you said was far better than not saying anything at all. And look where it took the conversation! Did you buy some plants?

  2. You made me appreciate my good health. I’m so fortunate to return to Maine for nearly half the year to the cottage my parents built. The kids and grandkids visit. Lived here all year until we followed them out of state.

    Glad you like New England too. Having researched my coming book which takes place in Seattle, I’m awestruck over the Northwest.

    • I’m assuming your half-year in Maine is during the summer – and how spectacular Maine is then. New England now is lush green and smells like heaven – so unlike a few months ago!
      I loved your post on Seattle’s Princess Angeline. Look forward to more as you research the northwest.

  3. I love this! I love the way you describe the garden center and the couple. May they have many more growing seasons together. So sweet! You made an ordinary trip to buy shrubs a wonderful and interesting story. Thank you!

  4. I know about the part about foot-and-mouth-disease well. Still, the conversation took a good turn after all and a trip to a nursery gave you so much more than plants. You have this moving story to share. Love it. ❤ ❤ ❤

  5. I too, know what year I planted the shrubs and flowers around our house. We have realized that it takes three years for anything to come in to its full glory. I love to see the beauty of our hard labor. This year Walter cut down four trees and we planted another garden in that area. It looks beautiful and I’m so proud of our work together. Happy hands, happy hearts, happy plants!!!!

  6. Oh my, what a beautiful and inspiring story. I already felt I was driving right along with you into that beautiful countryside, but when you described that man’s loving response to his wife, my heart nearly burst from the beauty of that “ordinary extraordinary” love.

    • That feeling of our ‘heart bursting’ sounds like hyperbole, but I don’t think it is. Isn’t it neat how our emotions can twist our stomach or enlarge our heart? Shows how our body/mind/soul is all one. Thanks for the comment, Elizabeth!

    • I didn’t want to overexpose them or take away their privacy, but I don’t think anyone will know who they are. Except an example for all of us of how to be in a loving relationship…

  7. Ok Pamela, you have me crying in the early morning. I have known several people like the one you describe in your story and I am always in awe of the love and devotion they give to others. My father was one of them.

    • I cried while I wrote this! We read so little of this kind of true abiding giving deep love, yet it is all around us. And it’s what brings light to the darkness, yes? ❤

  8. How beautiful, you have such a way of capturing moments to bring us right there with you. I laughed at your foot in mouth comment, I’m one for spouting out something inappropriate rather than keeping quiet. A few years back, in my current job, somebody from the local council phoned to send his apologies for a meeting he was due to attend, he informed me that he had a funeral to attend – I blurted out “Oh dear, nobody important I hope!”. Agh!

    • Oh my gosh, I’m STILL laughing. “Nobody important I hope.” Well, I’d love to know how he responded to that! Yes, we don’t keep quiet, but we do entertain, don’t we? 🙂

      • He kind of hesitated and then I said “Oh I’m sorry, I didn’t mean…” and he laughed a bit awkwardly and said “No that’s ok, it’s a colleague”, so it was kind of OK but I still felt really annoyed at myself for ages afterwards for saying something so stupid!

    • Loved seeing you hitting the Like button on some of my past blog exploits. Thanks for coming back. How many times do we recognize the greatness of an ‘ordinary’ marriage? Exactly!

  9. I’m beginning to think there is no such thing as ordinary anymore. There is always something extraordinary in everyone and everything if you take the time to figure out what it might be.

    On another note, there is no non-weird way to respond to a stranger’s cancer story. Even if you don’t say anything weird, you feel weird.

    • As writers, we are trained to see the extraordinary in the ordinary. And as writers, that’s our gift to our readers. Look! Pay attention! This is really amazing! (Because, as you say, there really is NO ordinary.)

  10. Such a beautiful post! It’s so nice to be reminded how wonderful ordinary can be, and how lovely it is to see deep love in everyday circumstances. Thank you!

  11. It is truly amazing how we can find the extraordinary inside what appears to be ordinary if we just look a little closer, or with a slightly different perspective – much like the way you you can see the iridescent colors on the surface of a bubble when you look at it from just the right angle. Wonderful story Pamela, thanks for sharing! And, I hope you enjoy the time in your garden planting your new purchases 🙂

    • I think we can find extraordinary in all we see, all we talk to, if we just look beyond the ‘ordinary.’ In fact, while planting those new purchases in the garden, I saw a host of hummingbirds swinging along amongst themselves, and I swear I saw smiles on their faces. 🙂

  12. I have goosebumps reading your post. I work with breast cancer patients so this is very near and dear to my heart. Thank goodness for her wonderful outcome and thank goodness for the amazing love of her husband.

    • I agree. I have (too) many friends who have experienced cancer, and I’m blow away by the support of their family and friends. As awful as this disease is, I’ve seen how love expands and grows with this adversity.

    • For so many years I’ve tried to learn to just keep my mouth shut. No success! :-0
      But then again, if I hadn’t have opened mouth, inserted foot, I’m not sure the wife would have opened up her wishes to me (and her husband), either.

  13. Pamela, thank you for sharing such a touching story! You gave a gift for seeing the extraordinary in the ordinary, me thinks! Most of us would never have scratched the surface. Cheers 🙂

    • Thanks so much for stopping by here, Cindy. Sometimes I worry that the ‘little’ things I write about are boring, but from readers’ reactions, I think they appreciate the ‘boring’ ordinary also.

    • I feel that you wrote a strong tale of a marriage in your first book, Barry. I’m sure this garden couple has also had ups and downs, but the love is still noticeably strong.

  14. Hi!
    I know Masgauten and Noelle.
    Look at all these comments. Congratulations on building an engaged community.
    I came over to thank you for visiting my blog Reflections yesterday. I’m glad you liked my expert interview post.
    I saw you have another post entitled, “What’s in a Name?” Are you a Shakespeare fan like me?
    Nice to meet you.
    Janice

    • Why, it’s so nice to see you here! Come on by again, please. I am a huge Shakespeare fan, of course, and a fan of any writer who pays close attention to the words they choose. See you again soon!

  15. I have had this post sitting in my Inbox for a while…. obviously, since you posted it almost 2 weeks ago. It made me cry the first time. I wanted to comment, but I wasn’t quite sure what words to use.
    Those of us who have the extraordinary blessing of meeting these “ordinary” people once in a while have very rich experiences indeed. I have had the privilege of having one or two encounters in my life also.
    Thank you for sharing this tale with us and don’t be so hard on yourself. We ALL have occasion to stick our foot in our mouth. But when these beautiful people can see past the words into our heart, then we actually bless them and they take that energy and pass it on to the next ones they meet. 🙂

  16. Great post! I know what you mean about not saying the right thing, but if you’re kind and genuine, it’s not something you need to worry about. I think most people would rather hear your true feelings than some phoney and meaningless pleasantries.

  17. oh pam, how beautifully you write! you draw pictures with your words that
    let me see through your eyes! thank you for this sunday (for me) visit
    with that couple in love amidst their garden of love.
    your “wrighting” is so right!! :)))))

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