Our next-door neighbor Rebecca was 6 or 7 years old when she began her Saturday morning visits. She was pale and undersized; her parents said she was born with a heart condition. They never allowed Rebecca to play outside. She couldn’t ride the school bus or attend the birthday parties of her classmates.
But for some reason, Rebecca was allowed to walk across her yard and ring our doorbell, which she did frequently. She always asked the same question, “Would you show me your herb garden?”
So I’d dry my hands, hang up the phone, or drop whatever else I was doing and together we’d head out into the yard.
In May, we’d stop under the white wooden arbor to smell the climbing Cecile Brunner rose with its sweet and spicy scent.
Other weeks we’d stoop to pick a few sprigs from “Thyme Square,” comparing the colors and fragrances of caraway thyme, Doone Valley thyme, and lemon thyme.
In mid-summer, the anise hyssop always put on a bee-buzzing, purple-hued show. The smell of which never failed to surprise and delight us.
And on a warm August day, what’s more thrilling than the scent of a roughly textured leaf of lemon verbena?
Late in the growing season, Rebecca and I would dead-head the green and purple basil, pinching off the flowers and in the process, stain our fingertips with the heavy smell.
After many weeks of these pleasant, but none-the-less interrupting interruptions, I impatiently answered the doorbell and asked Rebecca, “Why do you love herbs so much?”
She looked surprised and said, “Oh, I don’t care about the garden. I just like to watch you pick a leaf, put it to your nose, and shiver all over when you smell it.”
Our weekly horticulture class might have missed its intended target, but we shared a little herb garden magic.
submitted by Holly Cusumano, Philadelphia Unit