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  • One spring my mother and I drove to a nursery to pick up the trees we had ordered.
    This was the sort of spring I had dreamed of when I moved to the country.

    We picked up our bare root, bare twig bundles, and a few impulse items and drove home through winding back roads, old farmsteads and woods.
    You have to be a bit of a visionary to plant a seemingly dead twig and then wait for several years for it to come into form.

    My grandmother used to come visit us in the summers and she spent most of her time pottering in the garden. Wearing jeans and a large brimmed hat she cut an elegant figure.
    She planted white lilacs behind our house, that later were mowed over, by accident, but also by my father who prefers lawn to garden.

    She came for two weeks every year and brought a huge box of chocolates that we were allowed to pick from every night after dinner. We had two choices, but the box would go all around the table first.
    There were rules: No squeezing, no biting. You had to consider very carefully, did that long rectangle contain toffee crunch, caramel and nuts or a marshmallow center?

    She was a sometimes proper woman.
    “Mrs. Gardner, would you like a glass of sherry?” My father always asked before dinner.
    We played scrabble at night and she always won. “Mrs. Gardner, I challenge you,” my father delighted in saying. Out came the dictionary and my grandmother triumphed.

    She arrived one summer reading a book about Janis Joplin.
    We were all teens by then.
    Instead of sherry before dinner one night my grandmother tried pot, just once, after dinner. She hoped that it would help her sleep.
    We sat around the dinner table, my mother looking on and my father suddenly relaxed by the, almost comical, ritual.

    The day my mother and I went to the nursery to pick up our trees my mother lost her wallet.
    She called, a little distraught, wondering if I had it in my bags. We had many bags that day.
    Later she called again and said that a man had found her wallet by the side of the road. She had placed it on the car while we loaded our trees.
    He lived on Bailey Island and she was going to drive there to pick it up.
    I wanted to go along.
    This was where my great grandfather had once had a home.

    It was a 2-hour drive that, to me, felt epic.
    My mother, father and I had a sense of journey.
    My grandfather sold the house but my mother had spent childhood summers there with her grandfather.
    I think this was the happiest time of my mother’s childhood, before the troubles began between her parents and within my grandfather.
    We picked up my mother’s wallet and got directions to the other side of the Island.

    We passed by the house a couple of times, so greatly was it altered by time and memory.
    "I think that is it, there was a wall, but it was so different," she said.

    My mother was surprised by a group of new houses where there had been an endless forest.
    My great grandfather’s house had apparently been cut down and an entire wing of the house was removed. The surrounding land had been sold off and neighboring houses built.
    There was a wharf at the bottom of the cove that had not been there in her day.

    I could see, from her descriptions what had been.
    I could see a large house on the crest of a high cove, surrounded by field and woods.
    The view out to the ocean was dramatic and the house soared above it.
    Here had been an anchor in my mother’s life. Her grandparents had given her a stable home and a way of life that her parents could not and did not give her.

    My Grandparents had married and divorced twice and my grandfather had descended into a drug addiction and experimentation that enlightened no one and destroyed possibilities.
    He had been a golden boy my mother sometimes said. Top of his class, brilliant practice and then he took another road.
    He went on to remarry and became a small presence in her and then our, lives.

    We stood and looked at the life he had turned away from, sold and broken down.

    This is what I had moved to the country for, a journey to the nursery and a journey back to the past where the crossroads ran and the other road was taken.
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