Gertrude’s Begonia

I have tried to recall the church business that brought me to Gertrude’s house. What I do remember is a handsome white-haired lady who bestowed friendly attention on me even as her husband moved uncertainly in the shadows. After awhile, making sure he was situated, she led me to her backyard so I could see her pass-along flowerbeds, a sprawl of seeming disarray. But not to her! She knew every plant, told me stories of the givers.  She gave me cuttings of wild begonia, guaranteed to grow. I dutifully planted them in my tidier garden, didn’t think much of it when winter came and a freeze got them. The disappearance of her gift and the tyranny of trivia kept the lady from my mind.  In time her husband died and later she moved away. One year, I noticed something coming up. Gertrude’s begonia!  It thrives for a while, subsides, rises again in random places.  This summer there’s an up-thrust I’ve been trying to tame by trimming the shoots and rooting them in some kind of order. What part of “wild” do I still not understand? One thing I do understand better every year is the quiet blessing of Gertrude, a lady I didn’t know well but whose gift took root. Of all things, I’ve just read a fine pass-along book called Suzanne and Gertrude. And I’m relishing an old series about a widowed detective whose beloved wife was named Trudy. Also, having just looked it up I can tell you that Gertrude is a name of Germanic derivation, and it means strength.  Do you think maybe it’s all connected? “The Spirit bloweth wild, high-surging where it will…” If anyone can track down that quote for me I’ll give you a cutting of wild begonia.

Author: Phoebe Dishman

Phoebe H. Dishman was born and raised in Beaumont, Texas. She is a wife, mother, and grandmother. An essayist and poet, she teaches adult Sunday school, compiles a monthly prayer calendar, edits the Big Thicket Association quarterly bulletin, and keeps a keen eye and ear open for birds.

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