“Stories from the Garden”
"Our annual garden party
is usually around the 23rd
of June ...
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!"
* * *
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.
* * *
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.
* * *
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
"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.
* * *
is stranger that one can explain in words.
* * *
By Robert O'Connor