What Bloomed

Oh my. This hurts more than even I expected it would.


The movers come tomorrow.


Here we are, at the very edge of it. The house is a chaos of boxes. The children are over-screened while the parents move endlessly from basement to curb to Goodwill with bags of refuse or donation; climb endlessly up and down stairs, sort piles of stuff into proper containers; label things efficiently, appropriately. Try to contain it.

But it overspills and so do I.

My home. Saying goodbye is poignant, painful. We have lived in this duplex for almost ten years. Much has taken place. Children were conceived, gestated, brought home from the hospital to sleep in basinettes, to be rocked in the same green glider, to crawl in the grass of the (glorious) backyard, to swing and slide under the perfect shade of the maple tree.

This is what they know. This is where all of their firsts happened and so many of mine. First (successful!) co-habitation: six months before we got married. Our home decor tastes seemed to match from the start and we both liked eating chocolate ice cream out of mugs, in bed while watching Iron Chef (the original!). First positive pregnancy test: after an argument with Paul, who claimed to know I was already pregnant, over who knew my body better, me or him? (In this one case, him.) First flutter of life: upstairs on the green futon, with the cat lying on my belly. It roused her from a nap. First (of many) sleep-deprived nights of nursing: though they both did, this memory belongs mostly to my ravenous, no-artificial-nipple-thank you- girl. First:

rolling/sitting/standing/crawling/walking/running/talking/eating/arguing/realizing the cats are not furniture: both of them. Everything. Bike riding. Tree climbing. Flower picking. Bug looking. Garden planting. Yes.

I have lived on Thomas Street for almost ten years. In those years, because we had a lovely landlord who let us, I planted many things. I made a vegetable garden that gave me decent tomatoes and terrible cucumbers. I made an herb garden that could not make enough basil, parsley and thyme. A bird donated lavender when the stuff I planted wouldn’t take, and now it has taken over the back tire garden with its long purple tufts. I cut some to dry and take with me the other day.

photo (75)

Thank you, birds!

But with all the gardening, all the planting I’ve done, I never planted my favorite flower, the one I carried at my wedding and the one I wait every spring to see.

I never planted irises. And every single spring I’ve lived here, I’ve kicked myself for it. Here’s the thing: every time I thought–oh, I should really plant irises this year–some voice inside me said, What for? You won’t be here in the spring to see them!

I thought State College was going to be a temporary place for me. I didn’t expect to stay past my graduate degree. And then, when I did, I didn’t expect to stay past the kids’ first years. Or Paul getting his PhD. Or, or, or…

And then, suddenly, almost 14 years had gone by and I was still here.

Still here.

And last year, our babysitter gave me irises to plant–“Mother’s Blue Flags”–and I thought, Yes, it’s time. And I planted them. Irises!

And then, I took a new job. And now, we are leaving.

And the irises…they sent up gorgeous, sharp green leaves and I waited expectantly to see them burst open.

But they didn’t.

They didn’t bloom. Maybe they need a year to get settled. (I understand, irises.) Maybe they’re not getting enough light? I don’t know. I’m kind of a crappy gardener if you want to know the truth. And I’m sad. So sad that they didn’t bloom for me after all these years. But you know what did bloom?

The scylla…

photo (70)And the forsythia…

photo (73)

And the tulips…

photo (71)And the lilies…

photo (74)photo (76)And the trees in the gorgeous back yard…


And these two perfect flowers…photo (37)And also, definitely, these two…

IMG_0474It ended up that I have lived in State College longer than I have lived anywhere else–even my “home” state of Connecticut. And I’ve lived in the grey & white duplex on Thomas Street longer than any other house.


This turned out to be a wonderful place to root myself. And now, I’ll go plant myself in Pittsburgh. It might take me a year to settle before I bloom, but bloom indeed I shall do.


Irises at the Arboretum. Oh, I’ll miss that place!

4 thoughts on “What Bloomed

  1. Bonné de Blas says:

    You are so much braver than I was–I couldn’t say good-bye to all I was leaving in Cleveland Heights. I, too, thought my stay would be temporary in both the city and state, and it was almost 20 years of my life. You’ll bloom–that’s a fact, not an article of faith. Safe travels, my friend.

  2. Marian says:

    I can’t believe this day has come, Sheila. You’re leaving a wonderful space for future dwellers in your loving home. How will I find you in Pittsburgh? Hope everyone in your dear family will be happy and cozy in your new space, that you’ll each fill with beautiful blooms. Please email me your new contact info. I shall be out to visit.

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