Porch Talk

a Southern Momma speaks

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Pet Peeves

It seem petty to have pet peeves when this country and those all over the globe are fighting the coronavirus.  Still, this crisis, while it can draw out the best in us, it can also draw out the worst.  That happened to me yesterday.

I was talking with a customer service representative employed by the company I have a long term care policy.  After asking for a CSR whose native language was English two times and not getting one, third time proved to be the charm.

The CSR’s first words were, “How are you today?”  I have, like many others, heard these words many times, and I am always annoyed, though I know the CSR has to follow her boss’ wishes.  The day had already presented problems, and I didn’t want another one.

I told the CSR that I knew she had to answer this question because she was told to, but I wished her supervisor would realize what an invasion of privacy such a question is.

“I might just have been told I have a terminal illness,” I said.  “Or a close friend might just have died.  At any rate, how I am today isn’t the business of a total stranger.”  We finished the call, and I hung up, thinking how rude I had been.  Then I wondered if it is rude to try to prevent a total stranger from acting like someone trying to become a friend.

I grew up in a time and place in which friendships were built slowly, as the two people involved came to know each other better, and discover if they had enough in common to develop a friendship.  Most people realized that while it is easy to rush into a close relationship, it is difficult to back out, and went step by step.

People used first names only if the person addressed was on the same level as they were.  Otherwise, last names prefaced with the proper address were used, until the older or more prominent person suggested using first names.

At what was Southwestern Louisiana Institute then and is now the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, professors addressed their students formally, which helped maintain an appropriate distance between teacher and the class.

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Mother Nature’s Gifts

In these weird and upsetting times, Mother Nature is one source of calm, and even joy. Our experiences with Mother Nature can be as simple as a few window boxes of flowers, or as elaborate as a full garden. In either case, the gardeners will find in a garden rewards that might have been overlooked in more normal times.

Watching seeds turn into seedlings, and then into plants, is a rewarding activity because one sees the miracles sunlight or shade and soil and water create with only a handful of dry seeds.

There is a challenge in beginning a garden with seeds rather than plants from the nursery. Like the infants they are, they must be cared for with attention to details, such as the depth seeds are to be planted and the distance they must be apart.

The wonderful young woman who takes care of my garden follows the “destructions”, as a young grandson called instructions, to the last word, having learned by experience that to do otherwise yields poor or no results.

My garden is not formal. It’s more like an English cottage garden, with hybrid tea roses offering room to Dwarf Gardenias and moon flowers, and with lavender competing with a hyacinth to scent the air. All of my roses are fragrant, and in spring and summer evenings, the many colors and scents form a tapestry that changes an ordinary patch of soil into a land of mystery and delight.

When my dear Emile was alive, he planted vegetables. Summer squash, tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplant, snap beans and green peas. When my husband and I had a house in the country, Emile and I decided to plant artichokes. Imagine our dismay when two dozen of them ripened at the same time. Fortunately, my book club was meeting that day, so each member went home with several artichokes. However, we never tried that again.

When I moved to New Orleans after my husband’s death, Emile drove there twice a week, because the garden space was small, and didn’t require the care the larger ones had. After he’d helped me settle in, he took a tour of the neighborhood. The house was a raised cottage, and I had suggested hanging baskets from the eave to be filled with petunias and other such flowers.

“People in our new neighborhood don’t use hanging baskets,” he said. “They use window boxes.” Soon, the front sun porch windows had window boxes, as did the windows in the living and dining rooms.

Emile was a born gardener, and one of my very best friends. His death was and is hard to accept, but when I look out at my garden, I know his spirit is there.