“Stories from the Garden”

by Robert O'Connor







    "Our annual garden party

is usually around the 23rd

of June ...







2004 -


A few years back a young man, Marc, who was substitute teaching at El Molino High just down the hill from us, and I struck up a relationship when he wanted to visit our yard.  He had walked around it at different times between classes at El Molino and saw me one day.  We became friends and I told him he had to meet my friend Bill.  They both had young families with Marc's son about six and having been born in Costa Rica and Bill's daughter about the same age.  So I invited him to the garden party the next summer.

The day of the party arrived and I introduced the two of them.  After a brief hello they both went their own ways seemingly not really interested in the other. Later in the day the wife of Bill and that of Marc became close comrades at the party, sharing time to watch the other's child while the other one visited.  At one point Bill was sitting with Marc's son and taking to him in Spanish.

I was speaking to Marc and he spun around and looked at Bill, then back at me and then ran down to say something to Bill.  Soon both were running back up to talk to me.

Bill said, "Robert, Marc and I were both room-mates in Spain nine years ago.  We didn't recognize each other until Marc heard me speaking Spanish!"


*  *  *


2005 -


At one of the garden parties my good friend Claire Cooley, who is an artist and who paints cranes and herons, and another good friend, Sella, found out that they had both been married to the same man.  At different times, of course, but unfortunately in very close sequence.


*  *  *


2006 -


A couple years ago, my neighbor Alan was hauling gravel to Santa Rosa from Forestville prior to another garden party.  He was on this way home to get ready for the party with his double-dump empty and in high gear wanting to get back to clean up before coming over.  On his way, up ahead of him he saw something fluttering in the middle of the road.  He though someone had lost a book and the wind was catching the pages just so and made it flutter like a bird.  Traveling at a good clip he passed what ever it was but stopped about a hundred feet past and looked in his rear view mirror.  It was still fluttering.  No cars were coming so he put the truck and trailer in reverse and backed up till he could see it just outside and down from his cab.  Quickly he put on his brake, got out of the truck, scooped it up and threw it on the passenger seat to look at when he got home.

Once parked and his truck secured, Alan picked it up.  It was his son's wallet and he hadn't seen his son in five years.  It took him a little bit of time to get cleaned up as he couldn't stop shaking.


*  *  *


2007 -


And now a story from this year’s party.  I had an old concertina, a small accordion type instrument that had been my grandfather’s.  I have had it for years.  It was one of the only two things I had of his, and the only one I had left, but a young friend was at the party this year and it was his first time to play music in front of an audience and he was quite excited.  I have known him since he was born and he was always a sullen child, never looking you in the eye and never speaking.  He had been raised by a nanny and had not the advantage of a father and only that of a distant mother.  So to see him blooming under the spell of music was a delight.  I decided on the spot to give him my grandfather’s concertina.  He was thrilled.

Half an hour latter the young couple who rent my small house in Santa Rosa came into the kitchen where I was preparing a salad.  They are great kids, he a struggling artist and she a nurse in training.  They came to rent the place after a very bad experience with some shady characters who had rented the place before them to make meth and counterfeit money.  Once I had them out and the young couple moved in, I have not raised their rent for the last four years.  They have always paid on time and it felt good to help them out. 

Anyway, Eric and Erin, their names, came into the kitchen.  Eric held out his hand and said, "Robert, could this be yours?"  He was holding a gold pocket watch.

I looked at it.  "Well, Eric," I said, "It looks like my grandfather's pocket watch, but I can't be sure and it was beyond my belief that it could be my watch."

Eric told me he had looked it up on the Internet and there were only two hundred made and he had the information with him on the watch's manufacture.

"I just can't be sure," I told him, "it looks like it but I doubt it is."  I knew there was nothing but the manufactures engraving inside and the only marks on it I knew of were two dents in the back from my first acid trip when I repeatedly banged it around in my dazed state while it was hung out of my pocket on a cord.  It wasn't till the next morning when I woke up in a field in Marin that I noticed it was had two dents.

Eric turned it over. It had two dents in the back.

            Well, I though, a lot of pocket watches get dents.  But my heart started to beat a bit faster.  I told him I could not be sure.  The only thing I knew of the watch was its workings.  I had spent many an hour with the back open watching the beautiful works.  It had a strange and unusual design studded with three rubies and a tiny window that allowed one to watch the movements.

Eric opened the back and there was the watch I had know for years.  I just looked at him.  "I think it is my grandfather's watch, Eric," I choked out.

"I was hoping it was yours," he said.

"But Eric, where did you find it?"

"It was sitting on a shelf in the closet in the bathroom," he said.

I could not believe it.  Just a half hour before I had given the concertina away and now the watch was back with me.

"Eric, I can't believe it. But someday I will tell you the rest of the story of this watch."


Now the rest of the story is this.

I lost that watch thirty-five years ago in San Francisco when someone broke into my car and stole my bag I carried it in!  Thirty-five years later it is on a shelf in my little house in Santa Rosa.


*  *  *


Sometimes life is stranger that one can explain in words.



*  *  *


By Robert O'Connor

Forestville, California

June, 2007