Ode to a little old lady


There’s a house one street over from ours that I always take note of when I walk by. It’s one of those small houses, single floor rectangle, painted light blue. When we first moved into our house almost six years ago, a little old lady lived there. She was small and bent with white hair that always looked perfectly coiffed. I always said hello when I walked by with the kids, and back in those days we walked by fairly often since we only had one car, and that one was used by my husband to commute to work.


She reminded me of my grandmothers, farmor and mormor. She had that same put-together, self-sufficient look about her. As though she always had something to do, and knew how to do it.

There was another reason, besides the little old lady, that the house caught my eye when I first saw it: it had one of the best front-yard gardens I’ve ever seen. And it was a garden that consisted of all bushes and shrubs. No flowers, no showy plants, just plain old bushes and shrubs. They were planted along one side of the yard and then curved along the front edge of it towards the street.

It was such a simple garden, but so perfect. The bushes were all regular stuff you see everywhere all the time: some rhododendrons, some other flowering bushes, some with no flowers… But the way they fit together in the garden, no matter what the season, was beautiful.

I’d see the little old lady out in the garden a couple of times a week, regardless of the time of year. She never seemed to be working all that hard when she was out there. Just raking a little, pruning a little, weeding a little. But whatever she was doing meant that the ground under the bushes was always immaculately kept, and that the bushes themselves look nice and neat, without being trimmed into geometrical shapes.

And then I saw the little old lady less and less often. One time I even saw her outside in her house-coat and with her hair in something of a mess. I could tell she wasn’t feeling all that well, but she was still outside, puttering around that garden.

Then I didn’t see her at all for a long time, and after that a For Sale sign went up. A moving van came along and the house was empty for a while. Eventually someone else moved in. I’d walk by and look at the garden and notice the weeds under the bushes, that the lawn now had dandelions in it, and that those bushes still managed to look alright, but that they no longer looked as beautiful as they once had.

These days I never see anyone poke around in the garden. The bushes are growing into each other, and the weeds are covering the ground below their branches. Considering what’s happening on our neighbourhood, I fully expect that little house to be torn down and replaced by a bigger, fancier one at some point.

And that’s OK. I’m all for progress, and I don’t really feel sentimental about old houses getting torn down to make place for something people feel is more useful. Houses come and go, just like people.

But I do feel sentimental for that garden.

Someone planted those particular types of bushes in that particular way, placing them and spacing them to make a simple, beautiful front-yard garden. No flowers, nothing showy, just easy-going plants that would look good together. Maybe it was the little old lady herself, maybe it was someone else. But she took care of it. She cared for it. She made that small front yard of that small house something special.

So much of life seems to be about wanting bigger and better faster stronger, about striving and pining for the perfect huge shiny biggest fanciest. That little old lady had a tiny, plain old light blue house on a plain old nothing street in Delta. But her garden was one of a kind, it was special, and it was beautiful, and it was all those things because she cared.

This post was originally posted at my personal blog: Kids. Food. Life.

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