Not Quite Manderley

“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderly again…Scattered here and again amidst this jungle growth I would recognize shrubs that had been land-marks in our time, things of culture and of grace, hydrangeas whose blue heads had been famous.  No hand had checked their progress, and they had gone native now, rearing to monster height without a bloom, black and ugly as the nameless parasites that grew beside them.”


“A lilac had mated with a copper beech, and to bind them yet more closely to one another the malevolent ivy, always an enemy to grace, had thrown her tendrils about the pair and made them prisoners.”

This is part of the opening pages of Daphne Du Maurier’s novel, Rebecca.  For non-readers, there is a 1940 black and white movie version of the novel, starring Laurence Olivier and Joan Fontaine.  Wikipedia says that Rebecca is one of Daphne Du Maurier’s best-loved novels.

The other day, I went to the Hampton Victory Garden to meet a man from the local water company.  It was time for “shut off” and there are a number of gyrations required to complete this seasonal task.  While I waited for him to arrive, I walked around the garden.  The opening scene of Du Maurier’s novel came to mind as I noted several abandoned and overgrown gardens, including my own.

Filled with regret and sadness, I thought about the years I have been a frustrated Hampton Victory gardener.  Maybe I’m too independent or maybe I just need more room, but it has been hard for me to garden in close proximity with so many other people I don’t really know.  I’m not anti-social; my brother tells me I am winsome and friendly, possibly too kind and caring.  I’ve collected lots of stories about people in the garden.  I’m a good listener.

I just like gardening on Pleasant Street with Uncle Bob.

At home, it’s easy and beautiful to climb the ladder in the barn and sit in my grandmother’s old lawn chair up in the eaves.  Uncle Bob has even saved the two cushions from my college love seat; apparently, mice chewed through the batting in the tiny couch’s frame, but the cushions are intact.  We’ll find a use for them.

This summer, occupied with the tasks of moving and Moxie, I deserted the Hampton Victory Garden.  I did the bare minimum as a coordinator, paying the water bill and answering emergency phone calls.  It bothered me that I was not doing the work I had volunteered to do.  I felt guilty.  There are only so many hours in a day.

Other than a few abandoned gardens, things seemed to go along as always.  Dick G., in his late eighties or early nineties, fixed broken faucets and spirits and sent me his receipts; Lee G., age unknown but older than me, collected produce for a local assisted living facility.

Today, Gary the plumber will “blow out” the water lines.  Gary’s getting older too; his son helps him with this project now.  Fall roto-tilling will be the last task and then the garden will be “finished” for the year.  A retired man from around the corner will do the job for a small fee.

I don’t know who will take over the coordination responsibilities next year.  It’s not a lot of work, it’s just a lot of little details that all converge in a small frenzy twice a year.  My most conscientious and engaged gardeners, however, are retired.  They’ve already lived a long life of work, community-involvement, and volunteer work and I’m not sure any of them want to do the paperwork and balance the checkbook.  I wouldn’t ask them to do these things anyway.

On Saturday, I went to a homecoming pancake breakfast at Lisbon High School.  I sort of mentioned that I was kind of moving home.  I was vague about the details and the dates.  One of the women asked “Why would you want to move back to Lisbon Falls?”

I said the usual things.  I’m lonely.  I love and miss my “tribe.”  I love Maine.  I have aging parents.  I want to start a lettuce farm.  I want to learn how to drive a tractor.

I don’t think she understood.  It wasn’t something I could explain over two pancakes and three sausage links.

I just want to go home.

My stoic German nature will persevere and I’ll take a few days off from The Big Corporation to clean up the abandoned gardens and do my guilty penance for abandoning the Hampton Victory Garden this summer.

“No worries,” as they say.

Is it possible that there is someone out there who loves Hampton, New Hampshire, the same way I love Lisbon Falls?  Are they driving around Boston with a “No Farms, No Food” bumper sticker on their car, just wanting a few square feet of dirt to grow some tomatoes and lettuce?

Come home!  Call me!  I have a great volunteer opportunity for you. 

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2 Responses to Not Quite Manderley

  1. Mary Conant says:

    I’ve never had anything to do with a “victory garden” and I wouldn’t know where to begin but Dave always had a garden and I assisted him with it since we were married. He’s a very good gardener and we enjoyed all the veggies from our fresh garden. In fact, several people in my family were gardeners, my maternal grandfather was a professional gardener but mostly of plants and shrubs although he had a private garden for the family and my own father had a love for gardening. I think he had a very “green” thumb. He planted veggies and flowers. Perhaps you can enlighten me to the Hampton Victory Garden but I’m not going to make any promises. Hugs, Mary

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