Come on in! Pull up a chair. We’re all sitting here by the fire in the lobby of the Brandywine Wildflower Journal’s world headquarters, and Grandpa is telling us a story. Grandpa? Wake up!
Huh? Wha? Where was I? I forgot. Oh, yes, the Great Flood of 2014. It was a real trying time for the folks in Chadds Ford that year. Fortunately, no lives were lost, but properties were under water, and when that water receded, you could see the damage and just feel the heartbreak. Oh, there would be hard work ahead. No rest for the weary, as we used to say, back when people actually talked instead of this texting thing everyone does now.
So, businesses like Hank’s Place restaurant went to work immediately to reopen as quickly as possible. And so did the Brandywine River Museum of Art and Brandywine Conservancy. That’s where our story unfolds.
It was just a week before their annual Native Plant and Wildflower Sale. And it looked like it wouldn’t–just couldn’t–go on for the first time ever. So much had been washed away. But many, many people swept in and worked so hard in the coming week and before you knew it, there was a plant sale after all.
Except for one thing. At least one plant was missing. Unaccounted for. Picked up and carried away in the flood, no doubt.
Hey, Grandpa. How we doing on time? We need to start serving the food soon.
Goodness! We used to say quaint exclamations like “Goodness!” back in my day. Or “Goodness gracious!” Or, “Oh, my Goodness!” Anyway, I can smell that delicious food heating in all those ovens you have here in your fancy kitchen, and oh, my, is that mincemeat pie? I haven’t smelled one of those in decades.
Mincemeat? Grandpa, I can smell the ending to this story. Can you?
OK, you little wiseacre. So, during the plant-sale chaos and cleanup, I saw one of the young garden volunteers–oh, he was just a kid, practically–go over to a big railroad tie that had been carried in by the flood and deposited where a lot of the plants are stored before the sale.
I don’t care how young or how strong he was, there was no way he was going to move that big piece of lumber. And honestly, he looked kinda scrawny and weak. Those things weigh hundreds of pounds, you know.
But he did lift it. He did move it. I saw him grab his back later. I hope he learned his lesson. But anyway, there under the railroad tie was a squished plastic pot covered in mud. Gosh, it was flat as a pancake. It had been like that for days. Even the grass that was underneath was yellowing from lack of sun.
OK! So he took it home. I’m pretty sure he had permission.
And he cleaned it up and put the pot in the sun and watered it. And it grew and grew and grew. It was growing! And then, one day he was checking on it, and it had bloomed! Into a beautiful Rudbeckia triloba!
Grandpa! You know botanical names? And how to italicize them in print?
Come on Grandpa! How do you know “Whatevs?”
Grandpa! How do you know this stuff?
Let’s just say I know a thin-leaved coneflower from Laughing Out Loud, that texting stuff. Anyway, ain’t life grand?
Grandpa, don’t say ain’t.
It’s in the dictionary, Mr. WSJ Editor. Look it up. Remember dictionaries? Hey, let’s celebrate the holidays. Let’s celebrate life. And the holidays. Did I say that already? And peace. And flowers! I’ll tell the rest of the story later. Let’s eat. Where’s that mincemeat?
–John O. Buckley
Story and photos