Saturday, July 3, 2010

My Friend, and the Gardenia, Knew

2001, in Moogie's Kitchen . . . .

A few weeks ago . . . .

The Mother-of-the-Bride's chair at LJ's Wedding, June 25th . . . .

I got a wonderful letter in the snail-mail yesterday! I hardly ever get real hard-copy letters anymore that have any value other than notifying me I may have won the Publishers' Clearinghouse Sweepstakes or have an expiring-soon opportunity to buy (fill in the blank: A. mattresses; B. landscape lighting; C. carpet) at a discount. But this letter was a keeper.

Even before its arrival, I knew it would be a keeper, though. My late friend, JB, told me so.

You may remember my bestest buddy, JB. I posted about her last fall, on the anniversary of her passing. She was quite the character, but also quite the nurturer, and -- ever the riddler and punster -- she keeps up with that nurturing thing in the oddest little ways, even today in this world she has left behind.

In 2001, at the same time I left Arkansas to live in New Orleans full-time, JB and her husband moved back to Arkansas from New Jersey to throw slumber parties for a living (they bought and ran a B & B in the Ozark Mountains). In July of that year, on the same day, with neither of us knowing about it in advance, we sent one another "house-warming" plants.

She won the "who's a better friend" contest -- I sent some random house-planty thing, but she sent me a gardenia in full-fragranced bloom, nestled in a crockery planter. It graced my kitchen island for nearly a year (and I nearly let it die of thirst countless times!) before I finally wised up and transplanted it to the front yard where there is rich, black Mississippi delta soil. And there it has thrived, surviving our Katrina-imposed exile and other unpleasant weather, and even Bouie's youth, during which he converted the gardenia bush into a gardenia topiary with his strong, sharp puppy teeth. Today, it stands well over five feet tall -- and I know I'm accurate about its height because I stand five-feet-flat in my stocking feet and must bend the top branches to drink in that heavenly gardenia fragrance from the highest blossoms.

This year, its spring bloom started on Easter Sunday, and it set so many flowers that its branches strained with the weight and drooped over the plastic netting Pepper installed to (try to) dissuade Bouie from any further defoliation.

Last month, a few days after I found the lump, on the day before I was to undergo the second mammogram and ultra-sound, I pulled up to the curb beside the front gate after running some errand or another and was suddenly knocked over by a calm; a peace that unknotted those muscles all tensed-up with worry in my neck.

That peace took over me because I spied it -- one single gardenia blossom nodding to me on the gentle breeze. It smelled like JB.

She was letting me know that everything would be all right.

And it was.

The next day, another bud appeared beside the blossom as Pepper and I were preparing to fly to Ft. Lauderdale for the Destination Wedding of JB's younger daughter, LJ; LJ is JB's half of "The Littles." (Our four girls are of two ages -- now 29 and 27 -- so they were "The Bigs" and "The Littles" as inseparable youngsters, and the term just stuck.) My Little, along with her fiance and older sister, was to join us in Florida and stand up for LJ as an attendant in a sunshine-yellow polished cotton bridesmaid dress with pockets in the seams.

That second bud opened the morning we left for the airport.

It was a message to my girls and LJ that her mom would be there for her wedding. And she was there -- in the smiles of her Big's sons that she never got to hold, in laughter and tears, in untold glasses of white wine, and certainly in the Jimmy Buffett songs spun by the DJ.

LJ wore her mom's cathedral-length veil in her wedding on the terrace overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. It flew wildly in the stiff breeze, and wrapped itself around LJ and her father as they moved down the aisle, but it stayed firmly gripped to LJ's beautiful bridal hairdo, rejecting the temptation to take wing on its own adventure.

And thus JB nurtures on.

The letter from my snail-mailbox opens with, "Your imaging examination shows a probable benign finding (not cancer)." Then it reminds me of my follow-up appointment in December and other stuff, but who cares about that right now. An actual doctor wrote the literal words, "not cancer" on actual paper! In ink!

JB knew it all along.

And the gardenia is still blooming today.


  1. Moogie, that was beautiful. Absolutely beautiful.

    I read it twice, and I've got little choking sensation in my throat right now.

    What a blessing to have such a friend. If we are blessed to have one or two of those in our lifetime, we are way ahead of most.

    But I suspect (and not to flatter here...just personal experience) that your friendship extended to her was an equal blessing in her life.

    Ya' know...if you're gonna have a friend, you gotta be a friend...

    Thank you for taking the time to write that, and share it with us.

    One side note. I've discovered that often the plants that our dogs choose to "prune" for us seem to thrive and bloom better than those they leave alone. ;)

  2. Friendship is a working gift, indeed, Andy. And I'm so blessed to count JB's daughters among my friends.

    The gardenia is starting to look a little lopsided lately -- it's sprouting new growth at the dirtline and there's this huge gap between new and old foliage!

  3. What Andy said (HOW does he ALWAYS get here before me?): a beautifully crafted piece, Moogie. While there's significant sadness in this, there's also kind and wonderful remembrance and gratitude. Just beautiful and well done. Thanks.

    Gardenias. My favorite flower. Gardenias were my Mom's signature flower, in that EVERY corsage she ever wore was made of gardenias. She'd always put the corsage in water after whatever "do" she went to and our house (or parts of it) would smell like the south for a few days after. It's a great memory for me.

  4. Thanks, Buck.

    I do love perfuming my house with gardenias -- reminds me of my mama and grandmothers. But it's hydrangeas that really call to mind Mama's mama.

    (Note to Andy -- Mama, not Momma! Gotcha last!)

  5. (HOW does he ALWAYS get here before me?):

    Answer: The Gooble Reader! Plus, I don't stay up all hours of the night like certain men of leisure I know...

    Okay Moogie. As a special dispensation, it shall be "Mama," but only when commenting in your world.

    One last note, Gardenia is my Mama's favorite flower, too.

  6. That's wonderful news and a touching story. Happy Independence Day Moogie. And maaany mooore ;-)