The Flowers That Bloom In The Spring

Yesterday, Helaine asked if I had seen our weeping cherry tree? Not yet, but I made sure to get a good look on my way to work.

It is the only fully blooming member of our front yard family so far. Like so much of what’s been planted over the last 16 years, it came in via the back seat of our car – probably the Mazda 929 that moved here with us.

The weeping cherry is now tall and full of blooms.

Helaine’s intention yesterday was to cut suckers from the tree’s lower trunk. Tough as it is, all tree and bushes need some pruning. She didn’t get a chance, because the tree was full of bees.

When I went out to take photos this afternoon the bees were still there, but I realized Helaine had made a mistake. It seemed like the tree was crawling with bees because of how rapidly the two or three there were flitting from bud-to-bud.

I stood and watched for a while. They really were busy as bees. For the first time that phrase makes sense.

It was really neat to watch. They have a job to do and do nothing else.

I tried taking some shots with the bees, but it was difficult because of how quickly they moved and how far away I had to stand in order to feel safe. My long lens has a very small viewpoint when focusing a few feet away.

The blooms on this tree are very pretty, but they’ll be gone in a week or two. Springtime is our most colorful season. It just doesn’t last long enough.

The Rock

During one of my many trips through the backyard to the dumpster, I stopped just to look around. It’s been our backyard for 16 years, but we don’t use it as often as we should.

There are fir trees – some nearly 20 feet tall, that came to our house in the back of Helaine’s Mazda 929. In fact there’s a veritable nursery still growing that came home in the backseat of that underrated sedan.

There are so many little things in the yard that have been there since day one, it’s easy to pass them by. For instance, there’s the rock. It was supposed to be Steffie’s rock.

Steffie was three when we moved in. The house was new, though it had sat vacant over a year, victim of a major housing slump.

No sooner had the ink dried on our purchase, that the developer started to excavate for a house next door. He called in John W. and his backhoe to do the job.

John was like a character out of central casting. When you first met him, you wondered what you had done to tick him off? When you got to know him, you realized he was a gentle guy with a heart of gold&#185.

If ever there was a ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ story, it was John.

It was late afternoon and John was done with his work next door. When I caught sight of him, he was in my backyard with the backhoe’s bucket pushing a rock.

Maybe rock is a little mild. This chunk of stone is four feet tall and a few feet wider. I have no idea what it weighs, except to say, I can’t budge it.

As John pushed, sparks were flying from beneath the rock where it scraped along the ground.

“Stop,” I yelled.

John looked puzzled. He was doing me a favor by moving this useless piece of stone out of the way.

I had never owned a house. Heck, until just then I had never even lived in a house! I wanted this rock for my daughter.

Somehow, in that twisted, romanticized way parents think about their young children… those dreams when the future becomes seemingly predictable… I saw that big old rock as a plaything for Steffie. It was a fort or a castle or a stage – something meaningful in a kid’s life.

John pushed the rock back in place. I’m not sure whether he understood or just wrote me off as crazy.

Steffie never did play with the rock. It’s OK. I’m not sure she missed anything.

Still, I’m glad John put the rock back where it belonged. The fact that it was almost taken away makes it all the more meaningful today.

Like so many other things I’ve been reminded of in these past few days of cleaning, the rock brought back good memories. I can close my eyes and see the sparks. I can close my eyes and see Steffie as a three year old.

If she ever wants it, the rock is still hers.

&#185 – At some point, and for no apparent reason, John came over with what looked to me, a city boy, as fat twigs. He told me to plant them. They were “Rose of Sharon” and they would be beautiful some day.

I did and they are. Their beautiful flowers are in bloom most of the summer.

John probably doesn’t remember the bushes he brought by, but I do.

Cherry Hill and Back

We had to make a rush trip to Cherry Hill, NJ earlier today. Google’s new maps program says the round trip was about 354 miles. That seems right. It’s about the limit for driving and getting anything accomplished before heading home.

Luckily for us traffic wasn’t too bad. We missed morning rush going into New York City and afternoon drive coming home. The only real snag on the trip was here in Connecticut, around 6:30 PM, traveling through Fairfield County.

I have no idea why went went slowly… but it did. It was worse than anything we saw on the Cross Bronx Expressway, if you can believe that.

I would guess a large park of our traffic free passage had to do with the advent of E-ZPass. Having this RFID tag in your car eliminates making the trip unnoticed, but it sure does speed things along.

The toll booths near Meadowlands Stadium were always a choke point. With E-ZPass we breezed through at highway speed. Same thing for the George Washington Bridge.

My only concern was a cryptic message at NJ Turnpike exit 4, when we saw a sign that told us to go – though our tag hadn’t been read. Honest officer, it was on the windshield.

It will be a surprise to find out what the toll actually is. I have no idea. It wasn’t posted anywhere.

This is a trip we used to make all the time while Helaine’s parents were alive.

I remember stopping on the Jersey Turnpike, driving our Mazda 929. When Steffie was an infant, the 929’s trunk made the perfect open air changing table.

The rest areas are still named after famous New Jersey residents like Joyce Kilmer, Vince Lombardi, Grover Cleveland and Thomas A. Edison.

Is Grover Cleveland’s family proud to know that this former president’s most conspicuous achievement in the 21st century is having people mention his name when they need to make a pit stop&#185? It would probably be defensible if he were still on the $1000 bill.

Speaking of the rest areas, it looks like they’ve been rebuilt, adding additional outward ugliness to what were ugly buildings to begin with. There are flowers near the sink (and loud music) in the mens room. The restaurant section is a medley of your favorite fast food joints in a food court arrangement.

New Jersey continues to lead the nation in “Full Service” gas stations. From a National Review commentary:

It is illegal to self-pump in New Jersey. You must have a gas-station professional pump your gas and ring up your purchase. This might have made some sense in 1949 when the law was passed and when most of the population still smoked and stupidity could conceivably kill at the gas station. But times have changed and pumping gas is a safe activity that almost everyone but the handicapped can perform with the greatest of ease. Pay-at-the-pump technology is standard at gas stations coast to coast. Motorists fly through stations with the breathtaking efficiency only Americans can take for granted. That is, except in New Jersey and Oregon