Thursday, October 2, 2014

Karen's Portulaca

One of these days I will break down and plant some of these little flowers.

The plants themselves have no thorns.  The leaves are succulent.  The flowers are, at least in my mind, intensely colored, and have delicate petals.

That isn't why I like them.

I had a friend, back in my neighborhood when I was growing up.  Karen was her name.  She's still around so I should say Is Her Name instead.

A very sweet girl, very gentle soul.  We became friends as children and stayed that way for most of my pre-college years.

We had a few interests together.  We'd go back into the fields near the 295 Hill and look for blackberries, poke around in the pond looking for tadpoles and frogs.  When we got into riding bikes, she'd have her doll in the basket of her bike, I'd pull a Tonka Truck behind me, and we'd ride all over the little neighborhood.

If you're thinking Wonder Years, yes, it was that time and it was pretty much like that.

I always had a little garden in the yard where I'd grow a few flowers.  Someone one year gave me some Zinnia seeds.  They grew great in the climate of the South Jersey Prairie where we lived.  I cleared out the weeds, stuck them in the soil in nice neat rows and they'd bloom in insane color combinations.

Karen didn't want Zinnias.  The leaves were a little rough to her hands.  She went to her mom and dad and asked for some seeds that same year and came home with some Portulaca.  We didn't know what they were called other than what her mom called them "Rock Rose" or a "Moss Rose".  No pointy thorns in these to stick little fingers, they grew well in the poor soil in the little container garden near her back door.  I'm guessing that her mom was feeling a little homesick for her own native Maine since they grew well there.

Every year we'd have our respective flowers.  Zinnia in my yard, Portulaca in hers.  It might have been a Thing.  That was what Karen Grew and this was what I Grew.

When we grew, we seemed to stop planting them at the same time.  Every year we had set aside seeds and would plant them in spring around the same time in late April.  I guess it came a time to set aside childlike things and move onto others.  I got into electronics, she had her piano, and we eventually grew up and away.

Walking around here, these flowers were a bit odd.  A little incongruous.  Tropical flowers these were not.  Maybe that is why they were blooming in Late September, the weather is finally cooling down for us.  Never mind that Karen's back porch container garden was blisteringly hot in full sun on those summer days in South Jersey.  South Jersey itself is hotter than South Florida is in High Summer, so that may be why these little flowers are doing so well around the mailbox around the corner on the neighbor's front yard.

But no matter where they are, those little flowers will always be to me, Karen's Portulaca.  Even if it reminded her mom of Maine.

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