I scream out of aspiration while standing on my tippy toes, recklessly grasping the door handle. It’s barely out of my reach. With two hands and a single hop, I close my grip against the wooden handle and lean away, using what little muscle my 4-year-old body can collaborate. It works. The screen door opens wide. I proudly shrug at the achievement of opening a single door that stands three times the size of my body. With much success, I strut inside the greenhouse.
Standing at the entrance, sweat concentrates at my hairline, easing down the side of my soft cheek. The door slams behind me. The greenhouse stands boldly. Terrifically. I crank my neck to look at the ceiling, which seems galaxies away. The sun beats effortlessly against the tarp and passes through its material, blinding my brown eyes. I shy away from its brilliance, throwing my elbow in front of my eyes. I blink. Black dots appear when I close them.
My hands in fist, I rub them, back and forth until the tears fall smoothly from my inner eye. With a single hand, I wipe away the sun’s brightness and stare in front of me.
A colony of flowers fill the greenhouses’ void. The smell is overwhelming. The stench of soil fills my nostrils, forcing me to twitch my nose. It’s impossible to decide what flower I want to touch this time.The sun beats heavily against them. They remain persistent and stand tall. There are too many rows. Too many flowers.
I decide on the pink petunias. Mainly because pink is my favorite color. I take a single petal in my hand which is still attached to the stem itself, rubbing the flower between the pad of my thumb and pointy finger. The feeling is edgy. Moving the petal between my fingers, it begins the roll into a cylinder. I pull it from its home, moving it to the center of my hand. As I poke and prod I look for bugs. There are none.
A laugh, which sounds more like thunder, comes bellowing from the back of the greenhouse. Startled, I let the petal drop. It sways back and forth through the air until it settles against the ground. There it will lay. No longer able to grow, nor live.
In front of me, stands my papa. He hovers, intimidatingly. He seems to go on forever. Not as tall as the greenhouse. But still, everlasting. He is a man of 6’2” with white hair and a beard. He is wearing a faded blue and white plaid button up. His belly, stretching the material. On his right breast pocket there lays a black comb. I eye it carefully.
The day of his funeral there will be a photo of him and me as a baby, reaching for this comb. I am infatuated with it, and almost constantly struggling to grasp it from his pocket.
His booming voice and large build terrifies me. He is as intimidating as it comes. Yet, never has anyone made me feel as safe in their presence. I know he loves me. The way he stares at me as I walk around, pulling petals from his flowers. Until eventually, his deep voice will tell me not to do so. I will run until he can’t reach me. He always does though, and I will end up in a time-out.
The greenhouse is full of petunias, geraniums, pansies, and snap dragons. Beautiful. Majestic. Alive with color and satisfaction. Flowers are simple.
Simplicity is all I know.
“Alanis…” he says cautiously, as not to frighten me. I was not to pull the petals anymore. I was caught red handed.
Turning on my left heel, I book it towards the door, using my shoulder to push, hard against the screen. I laugh and look over my shoulder to see if he’s following me. Instead, he smiles. His grin says more than he knows. I may be a nuisance, but he loves me deeply.
Once outside, I run up the gravel road, away from the greenhouse and towards the old fashioned blue and white house. While carrying my body up the hill, I pass the spot my sister and I once crouched at, pouring sea salt on a slug waiting for it to die. I don’t remember if it did or not.
Looking forward, I see the six everlasting acres of cherry trees. There is 600 cherry trees to be exact. It is vast. It is incredible.
There’s a picture of me sitting in the tub that my papa would put the cherries in. I was helping him, as he reached high above my head and would then hand me each cherry. I was the examiner, and I would drop them innocently in the tub, surrounding my plump body. If they were in my opinion, “no good,” I would eat them, shoving them desperately in my mouth when he wasn’t looking. He always saw though. His bellowing laugh would rumble from his tummy.
But to the right, just before the house was a grounded stump.
The tree stump’s width is mesmerizing . I sit there for an hour, counting the lines on the trunk. I keep losing track, so I start over. It is big. Old.
I run my palm against the rough edges, feeling the splinters slice my skin. I don’t care. All around me stands trees taller than the sky itself. There is nothing daunting about them, but instead, inviting.
I lean my back against the tree trunk once I give up counting lines and begin to pick the flowers. Around the entire tree stump are shooting stars.This is the only spot in six acres where I can find them. They are pitiful flowers, with dainty stems. Heads that droop exhaustingly. They are purple, with yellow pointy tips and they are “my” flowers.
From my tree stump, I can see up the road. An old 1950’s yellow Chevy truck stands, rusted and fragile in the growing grass. My family calls it, “old yeller.” I never venture around the truck because the grass is too tall, taller than myself. It adds character to the land.
My head is laying against the edge of the trunk, while I wisp my hands back and forth across the tips of the shooting stars; the grass is slightly itchy against my bare legs. My papa will be coming out of the greenhouse soon. He will laugh as I lay in the grass creating the likes of a snow-angel.
There is beauty in watching a child carelessly examine nature. I’m sure he finds it amusing. Yet, I don’t have one care in the world besides counting the lines. I am picking “my” shooting stars.
Simplicity was all I knew.