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Mack Williams: Gardenias

Mack Williams

Recently, we took my late wife Diane’s mother Doris to see her main doctor, not the ones dealing with eyes or feet, but the one dealing with the parts which keep everything in working order.
I saw Annie Penn Hospital on my way, remembering that my daughter Rachel and son Jeremy were born there. Their delivering doctor and their delivering mother have both been passed on for many years now.
Doris spied the flowering gardenia bushes in front of her doctor’s office, most of their blooms past prime, but several still in pristine, time-unadulterated beauty. She said she might take a bloom home when her appointment was over. I wondered if I might get into trouble “snitching” a gardenia.My late wife Diane carried a bouquet of gardenias on our wedding day, or should I say, our wedding night (about the same time as “evensong”), when we were married within the full lunar eclipse which took place on November 29, 1974. If you doubt me , check an old astronomical journal, or just “Google” it (not our wedding, the eclipse).
We kept that bouquet of gardenias in an old Belk bag. I would occasionally encounter it, years afterwards while looking for something else; and each time, I saw that the dried blooms had kept their color, along with a faint “creamy vanilla” smell. In the bottom of the bag were only a couple of loose, desiccated petals and leaves which had “relaxed their grip” from the main stems over the years.
The old dried out bouquet became lost over the years, but now it “exists” again on this page.
We got settled into one of the couches of the doctor’s lobby (Doris, in her wheel-chair, was already settled in). Then, an elderly lady across the way with a full-sized oxygen tank (not the back pack kind) shouted (weakly) to the secretary that her tank was beginning to run out. A nurse immediately appeared, hooking her up to the “house” tank, after which the lady’s eyes showed relief, matched by the sound of relief from her lungs.
To our right, an adult man and his father talked of raising tomatoes, and that the “hothouse” variety was still the “tomato of the day,” as the “home grown” had yet to come in.
We all joined in the chat, and Doris said she would give anything to have a “good ol’ tomato” (Southern lingo). The older gentleman said that although the market tomatoes he had bought that morning were still “hothouse” tomatoes, he would get her one from his truck. In “Gone With the Wind” (1939), Southern gentlemen waltzed in formal wear with the ladies; but I saw before me a
Southern gentleman of the present, not formally clad, but wearing baseball cap, T-shirt, and shorts, going out to his truck to bring a lady a tomato (a lady, who incidentally is a “Yankee”).
An attractive lady seated across from me appeared to be in her well-preserved early 70s (old men should adapt); but neither of us made introduction (missed opportunities in life).
Leaving the doctor’s office, I “reconnoitered” the chance of procuring a gardenia for Doris. The majority were past their prime, brown all around their edges (different from the “four-cornered-browning” of the dogwood flower, representing nails and thorns).
A few blooms were still in their prime, and I wound up picking three to make a bonafide, but small bouquet. On that hot day, the doctors office’s blinds were drawn to aid in air conditioning, so no one was the wiser about my “theft.”
On the way back home, Doris talked of perhaps rooting the gardenia stems, in order that they could sprout new life. She said she might even have some rooting hormone sitting on a shelf somewhere.
But those few, most beautiful and fragrant gardenias, were now, for all practical purposes, dead. In her wish of rooting them, Doris displayed that ever-human hope of causing death’s closed bloom to re-open.

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