Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Henry's Magnolia Blossoms

For the last few days, our dining room has been filled with the scent of magnolia. It's not a sweet smell; it's grassy, a bit earthy, almost tangy. It smells like a growing thing. I love the extravagant blossoms, and the yellow-green new leaves almost as much. Our neighbor Henry's tree nestles up against the fence we share, so when his magnolia blooms, it almost seems like our magnolia, too. Every year he likes to offer me some blossoms. Actually the blossoms are his excuse for a little chat over the fence, him tottering on an old wooden ladder, me stretching my hand down off the balcony for the branches. I pass him over some stalks from our cymbidium in bloom. This is our spring ritual.
He is retired and his wife is not well, so he doesn't see too many different people each day. I suspect he watches out the window until me or my husband step out on the deck, and then emerges with his rake to battle his lawn or the clippers to trim his extremely carefully trimmed bushes. But I don't begrudge him ten minutes of chatting. Since he's hard of hearing, the chatting is mostly one-sided (his). I realized he didn't hear too well when I noticed his response to whatever I said was a low chuckle and a nonsequiteur--a comment that had little to do with what I had said. He always likes to comment on how thin I look, which he attributes to our family eating a healthy diet (although he has no idea what we eat). He is concerned with eating healthily because of his wife's ill health and because he is diabetic. Our favorite story about Henry is when he came to the door to return the letter we gave him about our remodeling plans (a requirement for our building permit). He stood on the doorstep holding the letter, and I invited him inside. Once he ascertained that my husband was not at home, he declined my invitation, saying it wouldn't be right.
Henry is turning 80 this May. My husband and I are trying to think of what to get him--something for the garden, since that's where we spend our moments with him--but nothing requiring too much attention. He's already got a lot to take care of.

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