The Iconic Geranium
Jennifer E. Miller
Lately, I find myself nostalgic. I'm writing a story, which has developed into book-length, about grandkids who want to help their Nonna (grandma) with the holiday cooking. I'm weaving humor, sincerity, and nostalgia into it. While the story is fictional, many of the aspects are taken from my own childhood experiences, which has allowed me to flashback and reflect. One of those reflections were summer days with some special people.
Summer days at my grandparents' house was an ordinary thing for me. As I've since found out, many kids hardly knew their grandparents, so I consider myself fortunate to have them lead large roles in my life. A day would usually start off by Grandpa picking me up from home. Pulling up in the long driveway of my grandparents' house, I was greeted by cement flower pots with the spikes plant flowing in the morning breeze. It was as though the long palm-tree like leaves waved at me. The pointed tips were known to poke skin if one wandered too close. Other flowers nestle with the spikes plant were pink petunias and indigo lobelia.
The plant that was the most iconic at Grandma and Grandpa's house, however, was the geranium. I hated those things as a kid. Their pungent aroma made my nose turn the other direction. Grandma's geraniums were always red; a color I did not care for as a youngster. Even though there was pink, white, even purple to choose from, Grandma consistently selected red. She planted them in containers near the front door. They trailed over the edges of hanging baskets both in the front and the back patio. With the screen door open, allowing the summer air in, I'd occasionally hear water splashing onto the ground. It was Grandma watering her hanging geraniums with hose stretched above her head.
Those stinky geraniums may be more about the familiar feeling they provide versus their ornamental value. In photos of Italy, I notice it's common to see them hanging outside front doors. I'm guessing Grandma's mother, an Italy native, planted them, too. She could have easily carried this cultural tradition here, and naturally, Grandma continued it.
When I see or smell geraniums now, my mind transports me back to those carefree summer days at Grandma and Grandpa's. I can hear the sprinklers: click click click click.....chug-chug-chug-chug.....click click click click. If I listen close enough, I can hear the sound of water droplets upon the blades of grass. The giant blue spruce tree, with its branches gently angled toward the ground, made a hiding place at the base of the trunk. Bringing toys and various other treasures, I'd climb under the branches and pretend it was a portal where I could talk to forest animals. The birds flutter and chirp their way throughout the yard. Killdeer commonly nested in the thick shrubs and I got winded many times trying to catch one of the babies that escaped. When I'd tire of the play, I went back across the damp lawn into the house. In doing so, it was necessary to pass the pungent red flowers reaching out at me, as though guiding me back home.
Here I am now, in my own home, craving a bit of my childhood that went by entirely too fast. My planters sat empty through the ridiculously long winter, so I headed off to the greenhouse for flowers. I selected spikes, red geraniums, and indigo lobelia to foster my memories. I also purchased a purple and white variegated geranium, too, which got planted, along with some lobelia, in a hanging basket. Even though my potted arrange is slightly different than Grandma's, it reminds me of that feeling in past summers.
So there you have it. The reasoning behind the plants I chose for my yard this year. The nagging tug of my conscience saying you need to do this was strong enough to act upon. Surely, I'm not the only one who plants or decorates to carry on traditions. I'd love to hear what my readers do to maintain their traditions.