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Thursday, June 29, 2017
SHAKESPEARE ON THE PATIO
1967--Wearing Aunt Juliet's 1950's Dress which she sewed for an Ohio State dance
My mother’s parents had a beautiful backyard in the small
Ohio town of Yellow Springs. Their house and backyard are the very first I
remember. I was a war-time baby, and because of the housing shortage, my mother
lived with her folks for some years while my father was serving over-seas.
Grandpa had made his yard special by that time, but when
they first came to town, in 1927, the “yard” was barren. The only tree was a
young sugar maple which provided afternoon shade. Grandpa Liddle was an English Professor, but
he’d been raised on a farm, so he knew how to grow things. By the time I’d
reached consciousness—say, 1947—his backyard had become a lovely place, now
hidden from the neighbors by a living wall of cedars.
Inside this, twenty years on, was a flower garden, where
colorful Dutch bulbs bloomed in spring—daffodils, tulips, anemones, narcissus—followed
by all kinds of lilies and roses in summer, as well as Canterbury bells,
bachelor buttons and a host of other familiar plants. There was also a pear
tree, a stand of raspberries, a grape arbor and rhubarb. All the surplus was
either turned into jelly or canned for winter use. In summer fresh fruit was
always on the menu—my cornflakes always had raspberries; our lunches were
accompanied by pears or grapes.
Celandine, brought from the NY family farm to Grandpa's Ohio yard, to mine
shadiest part of the yard, by a small stable which sheltered the ponies that
belonged to his daughters, he had a wildwood area. This contained a variety of ferns,
trillium, phlox, wild violets, and bleeding heart. Dutchman’s Breeches, Jack-in-the-Pulpit and Dutchman’s Pipe were two of the oddest denizens
of this garden.
Under the big maple, on the brick patio, in good spring weather, he’d occasionally host a small senior
literature class in Milton, Chaucer, or Shakespeare. This was not a problem for
the students generally, as the house was only two blocks from the college and
bicycles, in those days, were part of campus life. If I arrived in the middle
of one of these classes, I knew to quietly head into the house. Here, I’d find
Grandma in the kitchen, getting a proper English tea ready to serve. Of course,
there was always some for me.
Professor A.W. Liddle, a.k.a. "Grandpa"
Grandpa also had a little pond for goldfish. Nearby, he
planted two sweet cherry trees, one for me and one for my cousin, Michael. Pies
made from the fruit are another happily remembered treat, fresh ones in summer,
followed by winter’s, made with Grandpa’s canned cherries. The pond was my
favorite spot to sit, where I waited to glimpse furtive tail-flicks of orange.
Aunt Juliet & me. Hula skirt courtesy of a Vet on Leave from Pacific Front
I fed the fish whenever I visited. As soon as they spied me, peering down at
them from my dimension of air, they would obligingly rise to the surface to
take whatever I’d brought. ( I suppose, however, that, ordinarily, the resident
mosquito larva was sufficient.) In the autumn, Grandpa would dip out the
pond and put the fish into a tank on a side table in the sunlit breakfast room.
Mostly, the goldies survived to return to the pond again in the spring. Some of
these wintered-over fish grew quite large.
There were two weddings held in this garden, first that of
my parents, and later, post-Korean war, of my
Aunt Juliet. I was the flower girl and my Cousin Michael, still in
diapers, was the ring bearer. Later on, I nursed my first son sitting in that
same utterly private backyard, while my grandparents told my husband and me
stories about their 1927 arrival in this small middle-western town.
Antioch College, Yellow Springs, OH
http://www.julietwaldron.com See all my historical novels @