Once upon a time, there was a distinguished businessman walking briskly to work one beautiful spring morning. He had not always been the respected businessman whom the ladies would tilt their heads and gentlemen tip their hats to as they strolled by. He had been a clumsy bumbling youth who had struggled to make his way in the world. Long ago at social gatherings he used to sit in the corner amazed how people could so easily transverse a crowded room without stepping on anyone’s feet or disturbing their drinks or canapés. Once, while attempting to cross a room he’d accidentally bumped into a young woman disturbing her drink spilling it on her dress. He immediately profusely apologized, but the young woman called him an oaf and stomped off. This hurt him deeply because he knew it was true; he was an oaf. Now days he tried desperately to hide that shameful fact that he is an oaf and would only attend events where he knew the furniture and dinnerware were particularly sturdy and where he was not expected to dance.
Today, his usual way to work was block by construction and he was forced to take a different route. This path led him down a series of roads and walkways that he had not been down for a very long time, not since the days since he was a young man in school studying his trade. The walk had a dream-like quality. As he went down a gently sloping road and up a winding narrow stairwell through its cathedral of trees with their new buds of growth, he came across a low wall and wrought iron fence work to a private garden. He stopped, turned and slowly walked to the fence to look upon the garden.
He remembered this garden. This was a place he had always cherished but hadn’t been to in the intervening years since his days as a student. This had been his secret sanctuary, the garden he’d gone to, to regain his composure when he was feeling sad. He’d spent many an hour just sitting still in the garden. Occasionally he would bring a book to read or his studies, but mostly he just came to sit and look.
There had been one particular small tree in an out-of-the-way nook in the garden that had been his favorite. It was a small fragile tree with small broad deep green leaves and a small white-pink flower that had a delicate but a surprisingly strong almost narcotic aroma. The smell of that flower always had a soothing quality. One whiff and one would immediately be taken back to one’s most pleasant of memories.
A mother remembered the first time she had held her newborn daughter in her arms, her perfect and beautiful little face and those darling cute little hands and feet. The daughter recalled catching a cute boy she liked looking at her. He was so embarrassed; he had quickly turned away pretending it never happened. A small boy thought of the time his grandparents had taken him to the park. That day he had gotten to ride a pony all by himself. A little toddler thought to herself how much fun it was picking up the snails and putting them into her mouth. Her mother was not nearly as amused. His memory was of a time when he is spent a summer in the country. It was dusk and the air was still, the crickets were chirping and the fireflies were flickering off in the meadow nearby. Young children raced around trying to catch the fireflies. A young boy and his dog were playing a game of tag, the dog nipping at his heels as they ran in circles. Every now and then, the boy would be tripped up and fall down into the grass. His dog would pounce upon him and the young boy would laugh and laugh. The old folks set up on the porch in their rockers and swinging chairs drinking iced tea and talking about what ever the old folks talk about. He’d always suspected they were talking about NASCAR and skeet shooting. The young mother came out calling her children in for supper. She hollered: “Now children come and eat your supper – your food getting cold. Them lightning bugs will still be out a flickering when you’re done a eating.” They just ignored her and continued to chase the flickering lights. She yelled for her husband to get out here and help her round up the children. But to no avail, he was out back with his buddies having a beer and talking about important things – like the proper way to fly fish.
When he had visited the garden he had sat on one particular marble bench, directly across the path from where his favorite small tree was. He dared not get too close to the small tree, because as an oaf, he was afraid he might damage the frail and delicate plant. So he would only look and wait for the breeze to blow the aroma of its flowers in his direction.
Today, he walked around the fence trying to see if his darling little tree was still there. As he turned a corner, he spied the out-of-the-way nook and bench where he had sat such a long time ago. The bench was now covered with a fine green moss. Turning his head just a little, he could just see his darling little tree. There it was. Weeds had grown up around it and vines had intertwined through its branches. Another small tree that had once been nearby had grown large and now his little tree was in its shade. But to him, it was just as beautiful as the first time. Nearby, in a much sunnier spot of gardening was growing the same variety of tree. This plant was young and strong. It was as if his tree had flung its seed there so it may grow strong in the full light of the sun. This robust little tree was about to fully bloom. But this was not his. His was the older, the one that had been neglected by the gardeners as the years had past.
He found himself wistfully musing what if he had become a gardener. Doing whatever gardeners do, but being an oaf, he didn’t quite know what gardeners actually did. He looked around and saw gardeners working in the main part of the garden. The gardeners were tilling and mulching the soil, pruning branches, weeding and watering the plants. That is what he would have done. He would’ve carefully clear the weeds and vines away from the little tree, trim back the branches of the neighboring trees so the sun could reach his little tree, make sure that the ground had just the right moisture, not too wet and not too dry. In the summer if the sun was too hot, he would’ve put up cheesecloth to protect it, and in the winter he would have made sure the frost did not damage its delicate branches. When visitors came to the garden, he would have made sure that they’d noticed this most rare and delicate of all trees. He wanted all to appreciate the beauty that he had come to love all those years ago. As he gazed at his tree, he was brought back to reality by the comment of a young couple strolling by about how unkempt this part of the garden was. That was just a dream – just a stupid stupid silly dream. He couldn’t change the past becoming a gardener and caring for his beloved little tree. He was just an old oaf, he wasn’t a gardener and he never would be one. He turned and walked slowly off to work.