The Suitcase Lady


May 24, 2011, 9:19 pm

Orioles will always be magical to me. When I was a child, orioles lived in our neighbor, Mrs. Kurtz’s, wondrous yard.

One of my earliest childhood memories is of standing in our alley holding the rusty wires of the fence that marked off Mrs. Kurtz’s large rectangular garden plot. I would stare at the beautiful world this elderly Czech-American widow created and be enchanted. To me, the Garden of Eden couldn’t have been more mesmerizing .

I grew up in a blue collar neighborhood  of  small  houses with an alley running down the middle of the block. Many neighbors tended gardens and flowers, but none could compare to the oasis that was one house over from mine.

Mrs. Kurtz’s house was completely unassuming; two story, frame and gray as all the paint had weathered off. The yard was the consuming joy and treasure of this woman’s life. She worked in it all day during gardening season, and the earth responded to her love tenfold.

I am sure it was the vibrant colors of her flowers that first attracted me, but the garden design was compelling as well. A grass path wound like a river through the rectangular garden plot. I imagined myself walking through that profusion of flowers. But in the 1950’s children did not rule the world, and I knew full well what the word “trespass” meant.

Pear and other fruit trees filled the yard not occupied by the garden. And only Mrs. Kurtz had orioles. Every year they would return and build a spectacular hanging nest in one of her pear trees. I anthropomorphized all animals and was certain the orioles knew that she loved them.

Yesterday, I bought an amazingly expensive bag of oranges and the largest jar of grape jelly on my grocery store shelf. I will never be a gardener like my beloved childhood neighbor, but I’m going to do my best to keep the orioles that are fluttering outside my window.

5 Comments for this entry

  • Alan Sanderfoot

    We had an oriole bathing in our pond this week. It’s hard to miss that brilliant yellow-orange plumage as they flutter about the yard. I’ll have to try the oranges and jelly to see if I can get them to hang out longer!

  • Mary

    We had a big empty spot on our grocery store shelf where the giant, generic brand of grape jelly should have been. Guess the Sheboygan orioles are being cared for. Ours are now eating some expensive name brand.

  • Flora

    Did you know they come here [Costa Rica] during winter months? They love the tropics. I have used them in my paintings a lot. Love Flora

  • Georgine

    Hi Mary… that was a great article about your gardening neighbor & the Orioles! What a treasured memory! We too have orioles…& today they are all taking shelter on my back deck where it’s covered. Guess it’s not so cold (for their little southern blood) We had 7 of them sitting there but only got a picture with 6. They also like my grape jelly that’s under there. Keep up the good work writing …we love it! I’ll send a picture of those cold birds to you; as soon as I get it off my camera!

  • Mary

    Georgine! We are having a record number of gorgeous birds this spring….despite the cold! I am guessing your lovely woods is overflowing!