Thursday, February 14, 2013

Valentine's Day

            Quite a few years ago I visited a neighbor who had the most beautiful raspberry plants in her yard. Huge bushes towered over us, and we stood in the warm July sunshine and picked berries by the handful. I came home determined to grow my own berry bushes. A quick visit to the nursery, an hour or so of digging, and soon there were six small raspberry plants lined up along the back fence. 

            It took a few years, but they did grow and begin to produce berries. Not quite the bucketfuls that grew in my neighbor’s yard, but enough for us to enjoy and there were more each year. The plants became bushy and overgrown and every now and then I would prune them back, but for the most part I ignored them until mid-summer when it was time to go out there and pick some berries.

            A few more years and the plants were finally producing lots of berries. There were enough berries to eat, turn into jam, and use for pies. I loved watching the small fruits begin to bud in the spring and eventually turn from green to red in the warm sunshine of July and August. 

            And then came Valentine’s Day. February was mild that year. In a burst of energy and romantic enthusiasm, my husband decided to clean up the yard for me. The sounds of the lawn mower and the weedwacker splintered the air all afternoon as he worked. Every now and then I would glance outside. The lawn was edged in ruler-straight lines, bushy dandelion weeds had disappeared from the grass, and fresh bark was sprinkled around the garden island. The yard looked beautiful. And then he came inside. 

            “Honey, you are going to be so happy,” he said. “I finally got that overgrown area by the fence cleaned up.”
            In the middle of washing dishes at the kitchen sink, I froze. “Which overgrown area?” I asked. Images of the yard flashed through my mind. There was only one area by a fence that could be considered to be overgrown, but he wouldn’t, would he? He knew what raspberry bushes looked like, right?


            “Show me,” I said. I’m sure he could tell from my face that something was not quite right.
            I followed him outside and he pointed at the back fence. All that remained of the raspberry bushes were a few scraggly canes sticking out of the ground, each no more than a few inches tall. 

            I bit my lip. “You didn’t.” It wasn’t a question.
            “I didn’t what?” The excitement was gone from his voice and his forehead was furrowed.
            “Those were the raspberry plants. They were supposed to look like that.”
            “I cut down the raspberry plants?”
            I didn’t say anything and we both stared at the bare ground.
            “Will they grown back?” he asked, his voice hopeful.
            I giggled. “Probably. In about ten years.”  There wasn’t anything else to say or do. They were just plants, when it came down to it. And he’d meant well. 
             “I’m sorry.”
            I knew he was.
            “It’s okay,” I said. I went back inside to finish the dishes. 

            In a few minutes he zipped through the kitchen. “I’ll be right back,” he said, grabbing his car keys. 

            My Valentine gift that year was a landscaped yard and six small raspberry plants he managed to find at a local nursery. We planted them the following weekend and he promised to leave them alone the next time he cleaned up the yard. It took time, but they did grow, and the old canes grew too. Eventually we had a large raspberry patch along the back fence, and on warm summer days I would grab a handful of berries for my valentine.

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