Pretty Flamingo

I’ll say it right up front—I love pink plastic flamingos.

So do a lot of people here in the South. A few put them right in front of their houses for all the world to see, not giving a fig what said world thinks. Me, I hide mine in back amongst shrubs, flowers, and weeds. Yes, I’m a closet pink flamingo lover.

Why is it tacky to display the exotic birds? One can fill the yard with gnomes, fairies, frogs, and whatnots, but put a single pink flamingo out there, and one is labeled white trash, trailer trash (no matter that one’s house is brick), or plain old garden variety trash, all of whom are known for their cheapness and bad taste. I’ve read that some homeowners associations slap fines on owners for displaying the flamingoes because they believe the birds lower real estate values. Better tell that to Madison, Wisconsin. In 2009 they made the pink plastic flamingo their official bird.

One can buy tee shirts, plates, glasses, towels, shower curtains, and a plethora of other items sporting a pink flamingo, and proudly display them; but woe to her that plants that plastic bird on the lawn.

That’s why I keep mine in back. I’m not brave; I hate ridicule.

I wonder if there are others out there who nurture the plastic birds in secret. There must be. When I bought my pair on Amazon a few years ago, there were a gazillion reviews from verified purchasers. Of course, none listed their last name. Cowards, like me. I imagine they received their pink flamingos in unmarked boxes and waited until the dead of night before taking them to the backyard and displaying in a secluded area not visible from the street. Probably erected privacy fences to further shield the birds from curious eyes.

From my kitchen window, I can see the pretty flamingos. On warm days I can sit on the patio and admire their gaudy beauty. During winter, they’re the only colorful things in an otherwise bleak landscape. They make me smile.

Call them tacky if you will; I call my flamingos beautiful.

But they’re still not coming out of the closet.

©️2019 KT Workman

The Old Woman

The old woman rises at dawn
Cooks breakfast for the old man
As she stirs the bubbling gravy
Turns the sizzling bacon
Her eyes stray to the open window
Where the new-plowed earth waits

Dishes stacked in the sink
She joins the old man
Beneath the cerulean sky
Laying out the rows
Mounding the hills
Dropping in the seeds

As the days grow longer and warmer
The old woman weeds and waters
Tending the green growing plants
With love and care
As if they were her children
Who all have grown and gone

The old woman picks the lettuce first
Along with green onions
She drizzles them with bacon drippings
And while they eat in front of the TV
She and the old man
Talk of long-ago gardens

A passel of barefoot kids
Running up and down the rows
More hindrance than help
So sent off to play
While the young old woman and old man
Do the work

In the height of summer
The old woman picks juicy tomatoes
And the last of the cucumbers
She and the old man
Eat them with a little salt
While watching Wheel of Fortune

The old woman rises at dawn
Cooks breakfast for the old man
As she stirs the plopping oatmeal
Butters the toast
Her eyes stare through the frosty glass
At the barren, snow-covered garden

Arthritis torments the old woman’s joints
Her heart flutters in an unsteady rhythm
Keeping time with a lonely mind
That is muddled with yesterdays
She wonders if she will see another spring
Or if she even wants to

©️2019 KT Workman

Mama’s Garden

I have a lot of good memories of my mama, some of them, surprisingly, from the time she was dying.

A little back history for clarification—

By the time she was in her late 80s, Mama’s heart was failing from simply being “worn out,” as her doctor put it. Knowing her time was limited, she asked not to be taken to the hospital under any circumstances, to be allowed to die at home. My siblings and I honored her wishes. We arranged our schedules so two of us could be there around the clock to care for her, supplemented with visits from hospice. During this four-month period, a lot of Mama-memories were added to my considerable store, some heart wrenching, some bittersweet, and all priceless.

One day in early fall, I was with Mama when she wanted to see her garden. I’m sure she missed it. She had always enjoyed “digging in the dirt,” whether it was working in her flower beds or tending the large vegetable patch behind the house. Over the years, when I dropped by to visit, if the weather was passable, many times that’s where I’d find her. I think for her the inside of the house was of secondary importance—except for cooking, but that’s another story.

That day, my sister, brother and his wife were there as well, and the four of us got Mama into a wheelchair and rolled her outside into the warm, sunny day.

We started across the bumpy yard, brother pushing the chair, and were doing fine until he hit a chughole in the thick Bermuda grass. The wheelchair stopped abruptly and Mama almost shot out of it. Of all things, she burst out laughing, and with a smidgen of relief that she had stayed put in the chair, the four of us laughed along with her.

Then we were off again, a bit more slowly this time.

When we reached the edge of the garden, brother parked the chair and set the brake. Mama looked out over plants that were still mostly green and growing, saying nothing. I couldn’t help but wonder what was going through her mind, how she felt about not being able to do what she had always done, how she couldn’t just get out of that chair, walk out in the rows and start weeding.

I don’t remember if sister, brother, sister-in-law, or I talked to fill the silence; all I remember is feeling sad as I stood there staring at Mama’s garden. And I remember wishing, as I had many times after Mama’s health started deteriorating, that I could give her some of my healthy years. But life doesn’t work that way, and she wouldn’t have taken them if such a thing had been possible. Mamas aren’t like that.

After a time, Mama closed her eyes and turned her pale face to the sun. And smiled.

That beautiful smile took away a little of my sadness, and lives on in my memory, warming my heart until the day I can see it again.

©️2019 KT Workman