It seems that my mom and grandmother were always dressing my sister Marie and me up in little lacy things. And, okay, I’ll admit that as a young girl I liked the little black shoes and wearing the gloves. I think Marie and I always looked forward to Easter each year and the prospect of a new pair of white gloves.
That said, I am certain this was a picture taken on Easter. Marie and I are standing on the front porch steps of my grandmother’s house (that’s me on the top step). Those gargantuan azalea bushes behind us were the inspiration for my story titled “Azalea Bushes.”
The azalea bushes at my grandmother’s house were huge when we were children and they were still pretty large when I moved into my grandmother’s house while I was in college and even later when I lived there from 2002 to 2010.
Keeping them trimmed back during the summer was quite a chore because I liked to keep them at least a foot away from touching the house and just below the front windows. It was a lot of work. They grew fast and furious. One day I was trimming away and the story “The Goophered Grapevine” by Charles Waddell Chestnut popped into my head. It was a great story about a man whose life gets connected to a bewitched grapevine. When the grapes grow lush and healthy in the spring and summer, so does the man. In the winter, he gets shriveled and dry like the grapevine.
I thought it was a neat idea – someone’s life getting connected to a plant – and the story about the azalea bushes started from there. I eventually developed a character and the situation and ran with it. An earlier version of “Azalea Bushes” was published in Beyond the Clouds.
I have updated the title of the story to “The Azaleas.” You can read a free version here.