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Marigold Traditions

by Chris Smith 10 months ago in Short Story
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The secret of the family gardens.

Marigold Traditions
Photo by Veronica Reverse on Unsplash

The summer of 2088 was vastly approaching. In just a few weeks it would be in full swing and nothing to stop it. Yet, there was an air of excitement buzzing around. Young Mary would be arriving at the grounds any moment. She was a princess, or at least to us she was. To everyone else, she was the granddaughter of Olive. Olive had lived here at the Gardens Cottage since the earlier half of this century. Over the years, fewer and fewer grandchildren visited. They had all grown up, gotten real-world jobs, and had real-world relationships. And with that, brought real-world responsibilities.

Young Mary, however, had been here year after year, helping Olive tend to the garden ever since she could walk. Sometimes before then, she would just lay on a blanket and giggle as the butterflies lazily flew over her. Mary’s mother would often spend time throughout the summer but used this time to travel for her business. Often times she would spend one week in a city across the country and the next she would fly in with just enough time to tuck Mary in for bed.

Mary’s mother has created her own business just a few years before she had Mary. Her husband helped to develop a modern gardening tool before he passed away. This tool revolutionized the way gardeners were able to work. Especially those considered by most to be a little vintage. Take Olive, for example. Slow to her feet, barely able to kneel in the garden without help. It becomes hard to give up something you’ve loved your whole life when your body starts to give up on you. The tool acted much like a basket, but instead of having wheels to navigate around, it used a floatation motor to effortlessly float over your garden. Using a veritable swiss army knife of garden tools tucked inside, it would pull weeds, tenderly care to leaves, even monitor the growth of your flowers and vegetables and inform you of what they needed to flourish. It would do everything short of harvesting them for you.

Mary loved to walk with Olive in the flower gardens. There were many different gardens, each with its own theme if you will. Mary didn’t have a favorite garden, but she did quite fancy the marigolds scattered throughout each garden. The marigolds were a staple in Olive’s gardens. It was strange to some. She had never been able to raise marigolds until Mary was born. But the moment she had been born, back in May of 2060, Olive’s marigolds had been so beautiful that she’d even won a local prize for them! People from all over town come to visit the gardens, oftentimes just to marvel at the marigolds.

Just then, the gates to the cottage drive had started to open. Mary’s arrival would be imminent. You could see the top of a small car kicking up dust along the walls of the cottage property line. And slowly, Mary turned onto the driveway. The air of excitement for her arrival was intensified now that she was actually here. Olive made her way to the front porch to welcome young Mary. They were sixty years apart in age, but would soon giggle like best friends. All would seem perfect in the world despite what may be happening outside of the stone walls surrounding the cottage.

Mary parked her little old car at the top of the driveway and rushed out to hug her grandmother. They embraced, told each other that they missed the other and they walked into the cottage. The sun had been shining bright and cast beautiful rays of sunshine in through the cottage windows. Olive had a kettle waiting for Mary, she loved a nice tea in the afternoon and had planned to sit outside, watch the garden and enjoy a light lunch while they caught up on what had been happening in each other's lives.

Mary had just graduated from school and was eager to spend the summer at the cottage. Her friends back home were all going away to their summer homes with their families. And after that, they were then off to college once the summer ended. But not Mary - no, she was hoping to take another route and hoped to join her mother in traveling the country to support her business. Mary had gone on several trips before but was eager to learn more about the business and really felt that she could bring a lot to the table.

Olive relayed that she had not been feeling too well recently and had a list of projects she needed to complete before autumn arrived. Mary happily jumped at the bit to tackle as many of them that she could. One, in particular, stood out to her. Olive had wanted to prepare a new spot in the garden for a new tree that she had never seen before at the cottage. Olive had a specific spot in the garden for it and seemed eager to decorate the area as if it were a shrine to the tree. She wanted it surrounded with more marigolds with a cleared space below the branches of the tree. She imagined one could sit and have tea here. It sounded lovely to Mary, and she imagined that she would tackle the smaller projects first and would plan out this decorated area throughout the summer.

The day went on and before they knew it, Olive’s caregiver rang saying she would be over to the cottage with dinner from a delicious new restaurant in town. And sure enough her van came buzzing down the road kicking up dirt and dust as she approached the entrance to the driveway. As she crept closer to the cottage, the smell of the food weaseled its way into their noses and they immediately began salivating. It was a roasted chicken seasoned with fresh herbs, summer squash, and carrots. Olive particularly enjoyed roasted vegetables, as did Mary.

They stood up from the front porch and helped carry food inside and placed it all on the table in the sun porch which overlooked the back of the property. The back of the property was deep - filled with several koi ponds, and was lined with trees along the back. The sun porch was often an area that Mary would bring a pile of books and read well into the night. It was enclosed with a screen, but still brought in a good summer night breeze and the sound of all of the creatures mozying around the flower gardens. It sometimes felt like the frogs were together orchestrating a musical just for her. This summer she had brought a few fiction books with her. But for the most part, she was bringing books to study - so that at a moment’s notice she would be ready if called upon to assist her mother at work.

The dinner spread looked as appetizing as it smelled. And within the first bite, they all knew it was as delicious! Olive would always joke that an amazing meal is one had in silence. And this night was like no other. The three of them barely said a word to one another, but all were so happy to be present. The occasional noise would sneak out between bites, and the others would giggle. As Olive finished her last bite, she looked around as her granddaughter Mary and caregiver Sophia. She was happy to have such company and happy that summer was finally here.

Sophia excused herself from the table and grabbed all of the dinner plates as she walked into the kitchen. Olive looked over at her granddaughter with a tired look on her face. “My dear Mary, I’m afraid I’ll be no fun tonight. I must be off to bed so early. At my age, you’ll no doubt feel the same. Enjoy your books and as always, help yourself to anything you want in the cottage. You’ll see I left you some of my favorite books over in the corner there. We’ll talk more in the morning.” Olive used the table as leverage to push herself up from her seat, leaned over to kiss her granddaughter on the top of her head, and then left the room. “This summer’s going to go by quick,” she said as she walked into her bedroom at the end of the hall.

And it did. The first week flew by leaving Mary wondering where the time went. She understood that as she got older, time would swirl in front of her eyes, unlike when she was a toddler and days seemed to last forever.

Mary was true to her words and was running circles around the gardens, completing project after project for her grandmother Olive. She did help her granddaughter when she could, but often felt tired and had to retreat to the port and watch Mary from afar. They worked out a plan this summer where Olive would help before lunch. Afterward, she would rest until dinner and after that, they would walk around the cottage property chatting about the projects until there was just one left. Mary thought it would take her all summer to complete everything. But here she was, early August and everything had been done. Except for one big project. Olive’s tree placement had been last on the list for Mary. Over dinner that night, they discussed possibilities for its placement. Mary suggested that there was enough room to place a tree in the main garden. She loved it there because it’s where Olive’s award-winning marigolds were. And it’s also where Mary spent most of her time daydreaming about her future with her mother. Olive was keen on this idea and could not fathom a reason why it wouldn’t work. Of course, Mary would have her work cut out for her having to lift some bricks and stones to build a nice area for the tree.

Mary hadn’t questioned her grandmother’s desire for the tree all summer. Until that night at dinner. Until then, she felt it was an innocent request. “I’m sorry to be the one to share this with you, my love,” Olive said as she was unable to look Mary directly in the eyes. “Our family history is nothing short of astonishing,” she continued. “Grandma, I know,” Mary stopped Olive before she could get out another word. “I’ve known this entire summer. Mom told me that everyone in our family changes in their eighty-eighth year.” Olive nodded in her chair. “And she told you how we all change?” Mary looked a little unsure and even a little nervous. “Well… no. Not exactly. She did say it would be a massive change for everyone in our family when your birthday came.”

Just then, Olive got up from the dinner table and walked over to the bookshelf, and pulled out an old leatherbound book. It was their family tree dating back centuries. Olive began explaining that ever since the early 1300’s, their family had been passing away on their 88th birthday and returning as part of the earth - a flower, a bush, or even… a tree. Mary’s mind couldn’t believe it. But it made her wonder, what about her father? Did he return? Could he have? He wasn’t blood. Her excitement would rise and sink with every thought in her mind. Olive put her hand on a particular spot on a page towards the end of the book. “You’ll always be surrounded by my love, child, and this cottage will be in our family forever thanks to those like you and your mother. Giving us all a place to finally rest.” Olive was pointing to her placement in the family tree with the inscription - “Olive - 2000 - 2088 - Continuing the Branch of our Loving Family.

Mary shed a tear, but knew, this cottage was more special to her today than the first day she had stepped foot here as a baby.

Short Story

About the author

Chris Smith

Born in Northeastern Pennsylvania, now residing in Michigan with my girlfriend and two pups. Raised on a steady diet of science fiction, fantasy, and comedy with an affinity for any story that’ll allow my mind to wander.

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