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.
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.
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?”
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.
His 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.
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.