Welcome to my world and beyond...

A collection of snippets of the books I write and, occasionally, my life and the things that inspire my writing...

Friday, May 18, 2012

Trilliums and Back Door Friends

I walked up the winding path to our "secret garden", being careful to step over a small white trillium that chose to live right in the middle between stepping stones.

Another spring without my mom...mother's day so recently past, and my mind turned to thoughts of her...and of trilliums.  Of all the stories my mom told me about moving from a small town to a backwoods farm--some sixty plus years ago, this particular one captured my heart and still holds it fast.

She was not readily accepted into my dad's family. They thought her snooty (city girl) and college educated (she was an RN).  It didn't matter that she had come from a tiny company town out in the middle of rural obscurity, or that she had entered the school of nursing as a Cadet. 

What did seem to matter the most to his family was that dad's three brothers had all married local farm girls.  And dad had not. Period.

To complicate things, my dad was the last of my grandma's children to live at home.  It was expected of him to remain at home and help her with the family farm.  So, mom moved into an unwelcoming world, far from family and friends.

When the first of mom's children was born, she quit working at the hospital--to be a full time mom.  Her sense of loneliness and isolation from her own family--who lived over an hour's drive away, must have been nearly overwhelming.  But she stood tall (as tall as she could stand at 5' 2" on her tippy toes) beside my dad, learned how to do farm work, and kept having children.

Life took on its own rhythm.  We children ran wild and free on the farm.  And one of the things that we often did was bring mom bouquets of flowers.  It didn't matter the season. Spring to fall, there was some  weed or wildflower to carry in for her.

At the end of winter, we watched for the flowers.  We knew which ones bloomed in what order. From the catkins of softwoods--we dubbed "pussy willows" even though they weren't, to the violets and tiger lilies (trout lilies) and then finally, the trilliums.  We were mom's friends, walking into the house with bouquets that were stuffed into water-filled Mason jars.

Her life was busy...but not so busy that she didn't have time to think about how few friends she had--save for the rare visit from one of her family, or a couple that dad knew--a school teacher from his youth.  And dad's life was busy. He worked away from home and socialized there, and then came home and farmed.

Mom raised kids,  and did farm-work all day long.

So, springtime one year-- before I was even in school...and the trillium bouquets had begun to appear.  A few drops of red food coloring in this jar, green in the next, yellow...and then blue in two more jars.  It was like my mom was a magician!  Our white three petaled lilies changed over the course of a couple days. We had pink lilies, and pale yellow, pale green and pale blue lilies

A farm over the hill and just beyond view had recently sold.  And dad appeared one day with one of the new owners. His name was Bill, and he sat in the house and visited for a bit after dad had introduced him to mom.

He had a wife, Irene, and a pack of kids--a wee bit smaller than our tribe, but it did qualify as a pack.. No, they weren't farmers, but decided to try their hands at it.  With one daughter and the rest sons, they thought it was a good direction to go. No, they weren't from Pennsylvania. They were from Ohio. "Oh, Irene? You should meet her, she knows no one here. She would love to meet you."

When Bill rose to leave, my mom quickly grabbed a bouquet of the food color lilies, and handed it to Bill while saying, "Give this to Irene, from me."

Bill looked over the flowers and then asked, "How do you get colored lilies?  Irene and me and have walked our property and only ever saw  white ones."

My mom never batted an eye when she replied, "They grow like that, here."

Bill was amazed.  He took the jar full of flowers home and gave them to Irene...and told her just what he had been told.

It had opened the door for a friendship to form that lasted most of the following five decades.  And over all those five decades, the mention of colored lilies never failed to get a smile for the joke my mom had played on her new neighbor.

In 1975, when I was 15, Bill and Irene had sold the farm and been living the good life in Florida for  several years.

They invited mom and dad to visit, and incredibly, mom decided that we three youngest should go along. I had never been on a vacation, and this was big time. We were going to Florida for a week.

We spent over two days driving there;  the winter scenery was beautiful the whole way...but it was a long time in a car.

When we arrived at our destination, anxious to stretch our legs, we piled out and headed for the front door where Bill answered.  Then as I stepped into their house, I saw Irene hugging my mom at her "back door."

I never forgot that, but it took me years to understand why they had done it.

Years later, my mom and I were talking one day, and she told me about back-door friends. That's what her and Irene were, they determined.  "You know, Teresa, you let company in through the front door--but real friends come in through the back door."

We made several trips to Florida as the years went by--to visit Bill and Irene.  My mom never failed to use the back door when we arrived.  And Irene never failed to be standing at her back door, waiting to hug my mom.

Odd little ritual...big treasure.  Everyone should be so blessed.  Everyone should have friends who know what the back of your house looks like--and love you just the same. And everyone should have friends who know what your heart looks like behind your smile that's fit for company.  Maybe you call them something different? Kindred spirits, let-down-my-hair friends? Bosom buddies?

No matter the name, there is something beyond joy in the relationship.  There is a beauty that runs as deep as our souls.  Back door friends.

I hope your life is blessed with them...


  1. I feel as though with the clarity and purpose conveyed through your words, you always leave me with a gift at the end of each post. Something to unwrap, and think about and treasure. I believe these memories ~ life lessons would be perfect for an anthology of biographical stories! Much love, Dana :)

    1. Hello, Dana :-) Thank you! You always make me feel so good when you leave a comment. I do hope that some day we get to meet! Maybe you and David will come to the USA some time for a visit? Or, one never knows...maybe I will get to come to Germany to see your part of the world :-)

      Life's lessons...we never stop experiencing them as long as we are open minded-- to understand them when they happen. :-)

      Thanks for giving it a read. And much love right back to you!

    2. It would be my dream adventure!:) So far, being a big chicken, I have only left the continent once (which is kinda scary business, especially the liftoff), but David has been three times (NY, L.A. and Detroit), it was always work-related though. He still raves about it and the culture, food and magnitude of it all. Detroit made an impression, even though the stay was spoiled by him breaking his arm slipping on black ice.. In so many words, it would be wonderful to see you in person some day, either way, you-us or we-you. Our doors are open for you as well (with 2-4 bed capacity). Hugs and hearts! :)

  2. Such a beautiful post! Your mother's character comes through so strongly; and her sense of what is truly important comes through in your character too. I don't have a particular title for my closest friends, and my house is a disaster whichever of the doors you enter in, but the sentiment makes perfect, recognised sense :-)

    1. Thank you, Lily! Well, *laughing* I don't even have a back door, I mean, I do, but my house sits on the edge of hillside, overlooking a valley. And the back deck/porch has no stairs leading up to them. Ha! We think we'd have to be half mountain goat to get to them, if they did exist. ;-) So...I just let my front door be my back door. BUT, there are a few who visit and if I have warning ahead of time, I go into the white tornado cleaning frenzy before they arrive ;-)

      The sentiment is lovely. I always thought it was so sweet...those two displaced town girls, and how they found each other out here amid acres of corn and loneliness. :-)

      Life is too short to fuss over cobwebs. ;-)

      Thank you for giving it a read :-)!

  3. What a beautiful and touching story. Thank you for sharing it, even if it did bring tears to my eyes. I'm glad you have such wonderful memories of your mother. You'll always miss her, but these are the kinds of memories that will always keep her alive in your heart.

    1. Thank you, Susan! :-) I hope that these memories do keep her alive in my heart. It is such a catharsis--writing about it. Thank you for giving it a read--and for your kind and thoughtful comment. :-)

  4. I just want to share your story with everyone. OMGosh. So touching.

  5. Thanks, Tanya! Such kind words. I must be doing something right. :-) Thanks for visiting and giving this a read. :-)

  6. What a spectacular post. I've heard the term, back-door friends, but never really took the time to think about what the phrase really meant.

  7. Thanks, Jess! There are a few different meanings. I think there was even a song about back door friends--a half a century ago. :-)

  8. That's such a lovely post and a good story with lots of great memories we must never forget.

    Jan's place...

  9. Thank you, Jan! And thanks for visiting :-)