Girtha Rising – In The Garden

Portland, Oregon July 1929

“Marcie! Frankie! I need your help picking out the green beans.”

“Oh, mama I wish there weren’t so many of them to pick. It’s gonna take the rest of the day. I wanna go down to the creek!”

“Say, if wishes were horses, then beggars would ride, Marcie dear. The beans won’t pick themselves. This family will be riding high through the winter when we get them canned up.”

Frankie skipped up to mama, her arms full with teetering harvest baskets.

“I’m ready mama, I’m ready. Daddy says he wants to eat up a big serving of your fresh beans for supper and I’m your helper. Daddy said I was!”

The baskets slip out of Frankie’s grasp and tumble down in front of her. Girtha smiled as her exuberant youngest daughter gathered them up and handed each of them their own basket.

“We can race each other and see who finishes the row first. Mama, I think whoever picks the fastest should get a special prize.  I can beat Marcie this time, I know I can. I’m much faster now that I’m almost a grown up.”

“I suppose my ribbon box might have a reward or two. Are there any girls that might want a new grosgrain hair bow?

“Me! Me!” they both squealed at once and raced to the garden.

Girtha tied on her sun hat striding out to join them, humming and happy in her S. E. Portland, Oregon home. Mount Hood is framed by sky as blue as her Edgar’s twinkling eyes.

“There is beauty all around, girls! Look up and see.”

“Oh mama, don’t start singing now, if we start singing Marcie will win!”

“Frankie darling, I will hum the tune and hold the words in my heart until you are ready to sing with me. Say, you are filling your basket up fast as can be!” 

Plump crisp beans snap off the vines and the harvest feels endless to Marcie and Frankie. Girtha looks at the abundance surrounding her. Cucumbers shine and call out to be tossed in the pickle crock. Fat green tomatoes are blushing red–promising sweetness soon. Edgar loves to come home for fresh tomato soup at his mid day dinner break. She grows zinnia, marigolds and snapdragons for her husband’s pleasure. Carrots, radish and beets swell up in the fertile garden soil. Weeds have no home in Girtha’s garden. She cultivates loveliness.

Just as the love surges through her heart and Girtha experiences contentment, she feels an old dreadful companion squeeze her belly reminding her the people she loves can be taken, the places she calls home may have to be left behind. Her arms ache to cradle her sweet baby Ruth again and she longs to see her running through the garden too. Girtha’s sisters and aunties were wrong, she did not get over her baby girl dying. Feet planted solidly on the ground and holding her head up high in the sky, Girtha breathes in deeply until she feels the grip loosen in her stomach and the fear subsides.

She plucks beans by the handful tossing them into her harvest basket. It is a prime first picking and the baskets fill quickly.

“Girls you did a great job today.”

“Mama, mama, I did it! I win! I’m faster than Marcie!”

“I’m okie-dokie if Frankie gets the hair ribbon mama.”

“A rosy red ribbon for me!”

“Marcie, you know I don’t like to hear you using slang. It is not lady like. But I am pleased that you are sweet to your sister, so you may have a ribbon from my hair box too. Frankie, you may pick first.”

Frankie rushes from the garden, her basket full of beans. She passes by mama’s roses, stops and trills back to mama, “Roses bloom beneath our feet.”  

“All the Earth’s a garden sweet” Girtha and Marcie trill back.

The sound of gravel scattering and the smell of motor oil announce the arrival of Edgar home for dinner. His shield and the buttons on his policeman’s uniform catch the sunlight and he sparkles as he roars into the driveway on his Portland Police Department motorcycle. 

Edgar strolls into the garden, picking a bouquet of snapdragons growing along the edge of the garden. Frankie spies him, forgetting about the basket of beans and the rosy red hair ribbon, she bounds down the steps skipping towards him.


Edgar grins and raises his bouquet up in the air to tease her.

“Sarah Frances, is that my cutie pie? Hurry over, I have treasures.”

“Oh daddy, call me Frankie or call me Frannie, but I don’t ever want to be old fashioned Sarah.”

“Okie-dokie,it’s a 23 skidoo for Sarah. I now hereby present these most magnificent scarlet snaps to express my sincere apology to Miss Frankie Blanchard.”

Marcie and Girtha lug full baskets of beans out of the garden and set them in the shade of the young cherry tree outside the house.

“Edgar, how will I ever learn these girls right about slang if you keep bringing it in from the rough!”

He falls to one knee and bows his head in mock contrition. He holds out the rest of the flowers to her.

“How can I ever make it up to you, my love? Will you accept these humble flowers as a token of everlasting affection.”

Edgar lifts up his head and meets Girtha’s eyes. They both collapse into giggles as she accepts her bouquet of garden blossoms. He rises and draws her into his arms.

“Mademoiselle Marcia, where’s my songbird? What’s the tune for today?” 

Marcie joins then as Edgar plucks three stems from Girtha’s bunch of snapdragons.

“Would you trade peachy colors for a peachy keen song for your daddy?”

Marcie artfully places one of the flowers behind her ear, rises on her tiptoes and kisses Edgar’s cheek. Her sweet voice dances in the air as she begins to sing:

“There is beauty all around, When there’s love at home”

Edgar joins, lifting the tune in tenor harmony.

“There is joy in every sound, When there’s love at home”

Girtha and Frankie complete the circle of song.

Roses bloom beneath our feet, 

All the earth’s a garden sweet, 

Making life a bliss complete, 

When there’s love at home.”

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