Brendas' Garden-An Abundant Life


by Brenda Looney


Rain was pouring down as I exited my van and ran up the old wooden stairs to Florence's house. I shook out my umbrella on the porch and knocked on the door of the quaint, old country home. Florence answered the door with a smile and a warm "Hello, come on in." Barely five foot tall, she had on a dainty shirtwaist dress, covered in tiny violets. Her old watery blue eyes twinkled, and her thin, silver hair was braided neatly and wrapped around her head like a halo. She opened up her arms and hugged me. I could feel how frail her tiny body was next to me. There was a lump in my throat because my mission that day was a sad one. Florence was going to a nursing home and I was there to help her dispose of all her worldly goods. It had been printed in the church bulletin that there was to be a sale here. Everything must go.
Florence had never married. She had lived with her dear friend, Charlotte for over 55 years. Charlotte had died a couple years ago. They were affectionately always referred to as the old maids. Florence was no longer able to live on her own and care for herself, and was in poor health. There was a place waiting for her at the nursing home owned by the church.

The two women had always been old as far back as I could remember. Both were retired and lived a quiet, Godly life. They were thrifty, old fashioned, and 100% country women. They sacrificed often and did without so that they could contribute money to the church. I remember once Florence put off getting a new coat she wanted to donate money to a missionary who was in need of financial assistance.
Looking around the house, I spotted an old trundle sewing machine. I couldn't believe anyone still used one of those, but Florence assured me that until her eyes dimmed, she had indeed used it to sew all of their clothes.

forever friends

I opened up the linen closet to take stock of what was there and saw stacks of home made quilts neatly folded. I pulled one out and could tell it was old and worn, and I was impressed with the neat, tiny stitches and how much work had gone into it. The sheets were hand made cotton sheets worn thin and patched over, starched, and pressed. There were also many crocheted afghans in bright colors that the two women had made over the years. They always gave gifts of hand crocheted baby afghans at showers, and young mothers were always thrilled to get them.
The living room had a big fireplace and this was the only source of heat in the old house. The dining room table had a beautiful hand crocheted cloth over it. The furniture was old, primitive, but well made and solid.  A hutch contained old tea cups and china brought by Charlotte from England as a young woman. In the bedroom there was an old feather bed piled down with old quilts and blankets. On the dresser sat an oil lamp next to a picture of her beloved friend, Charlotte.
In the kitchen pantry, there were shelves lined with hundreds of jars of canned goods. Every year, the two women would put in a huge garden and then they would work hard canning for weeks on end. Peaches, pears, green beans, pickles and jams in a rainbow of colors. The fruits of their labors all lined up neatly in long rows. There were all the basics for cooking and baking. On one wall of the kitchen there was an ancient cook stove that I'm sure was as old as I was. There was no microwave or electric blenders or even a Mr. Coffee. An old percolator sat out waiting for the next cup to be brewed. I spotted an old whistling tea kettle worn from years of daily use. They cooked everything from scratch and there was never any waste.
The rain had stopped so I walked out the back screen door and it slammed behind me. I ventured out to the old wooden shed to see what was there. The first thing I spotted was an old push lawn mower and some rusty old watering cans. The garden tools were basic and functional. There was nothing fancy here and not one electric weed whip.  Everything was done by hand the old way.
I looked around the yard and spotted old grape vines growing on the fence. There were several apple trees and peach and pear trees. I saw some raspberry bushes and a strawberry patch. There wasn't much that they didn't grow. They truly lived off the land.
Beauty was not forgotten as many flowers were planted around the house. Old lilac bushes, peonies, iris, and rambling roses were wrapped around the house and yard. Over by the well house there were old clay pots stacked by size all in a row. By their looks I'm sure they had been used over and over each year to grow many plants.
Florence and Charlotte had led a self-sufficient lifestyle. They grew their own fruit and vegetables and had chickens for eggs and meat. Their clothes and linens all were hand made. They had wood for heat and a well for water. They didn't own a television and their spare time was devoted to Bible study or volunteering to bake for a church dinner or help some young couples in the congregation by baby-sitting. Since neither had ever had children they enjoyed baby-sitting and sharing other people's children and lives.
Florence and Charlotte were two of the most Godly women I have ever known who were the best example of a self-sufficient, simple and quiet lifestyle. Their values were based on their faith in God. They put all their problems in prayer and lived a long life abundant in what the Earth could provide. Their basic needs were met and they were loved by all who knew them.
By the end of the day, Florence looked exhausted. The house had been filled with dozens of people buying up and carting out all of Florence's material belongings. Everyone hugged Florence good-bye and there was nothing much left. I tried to imagine how she must have felt. Throughout the day she was busy talking to all who had come. Every item she sold had a story she had to tell about it. IT was as though she wanted a small piece of herself to go with it.
She opened up a bureau drawer and handed me a beautiful quilt and told me she wanted me to have it. She said that she had made this for herself when she was young for her hope chest. As she had never married, it was tucked away and never used. That quilt symbolized a dream never fulfilled.
I helped Florence pack her clothes up and load them in the van. We walked through the now empty rooms to be sure we hadn't forgotten anything. She picked up the small picture frame with Charlotte's picture in it. Someone had set it down on a windowsill when the dresser was moved. Holding it in her tiny old hands, Florence lovingly rubbed the frame. She said "Charlotte old girl, we had a good life here didn't we?" She wiped a tear from her eye and clutched the picture to her chest. I put my arm around her and we walked out of the house locking the door behind us. I helped her down the old wooden stairs. Looking back one more time we saw a beautiful rainbow in the sky arching over the treetops.
Florence and Charlotte had indeed shared an abundant life.

Born 15 Mar 1892
Died Dec 1984

Memories of an Abundant Life  * Family Ties  *  Flowers & Friends
Grandpas' Picture   * In Rememberance   *  Letter to My Father
The Time of My Life   *  My Father   *   To My Husband
Sweetheart Overseas   * My Dove   *   My Favorite Places
My Garden in Bloom   * My Animal Children   *  No More
                               New Pages !!!
Christmas Gift  * Pumpkin  * Empty Nest  * Beyond Tears  * The Red Rose  * Annie's Story of Great Depression  *
Garden Pictures  * Coming Into Manhood  * I Love How You Love Me  *
Time To Give Thanks  * Autumn Memories  *  Sunset  *My First Mothers' Day  *
The Gift   *  Neighbors  *   Seasons of Life

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