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Today, we visit Lydie Talbot, one of the main characters in Thieves of Fire, my second novel. Like so many folks in Carding, Lydie is a gardener. And like so many gardeners, many of her favorite plants are attached to memories of the past.
“Here, let me help you with the dishes, Mrs. Talbot,” Peter Foster said as he rose from the supper table.
“Oh, just leave them next to the sink. I don’t mind doing the washing up,” Lydie said, following him into the kitchen. She caught her daughter Hillary’s eye and made a silent plea for her to herd Peter in another direction. Lydie liked the young man who was going to marry her youngest daughter but she always had a helluva time finding her cooking utensils after Peter put them away. She blamed it on his engineering education.
“All brains and no sense,” she’d mutter to herself when she couldn’t find her potato masher.
“Hey Peter, before it gets dark I think Mom would appreciate it if we spread a tarp over that wood she had delivered today.” Hillary glanced at her mother. “Is the tarp in the shed?”
“Oh that would be a great help. It’s hard for one person to spread that thing out.”
“But…” Peter’s full-of-silverware hands hovered over the sink. “My mother taught me to never leave my hostess with all the dishes.”
Lydie laughed. “And she taught you well. But I can do the dishes all right by myself. It’s covering the wood that’s another story.”
Before Peter could utter another protest, mother and daughter maneuvered him outside. As he dragged the tarp across the yard, Lydie heard him protesting: “It just doesn’t seem right. She did all the cooking too.”
As soon as Peter was safely out of the way, she steamed hot water into the sink—Lydie didn’t hold with dishwashers—the soap foaming up over the plates and cups. After years of one crisis after another, life had finally settled into a welcome calm in the Talbot family. Her eldest, Amy, was ecstatically and happily married to her high school sweetheart. And Peter, after much floundering around, had finally mustered up the courage to tell Hillary how much he liked her silly socks—as well as the rest of her.
“Things are going to get mighty quiet around here, Tom.” Lydie saved the evening hours to talk to her long-gone but still-beloved husband. “The girls are finally situated, and the boys they picked are nice. You’d approve, I’m sure.”
As she dried and put the dishes away (where she liked to put them), Lydie hefted her compost bucket and calculated it was time to empty it.
The sun had retired behind the hills a couple of hours before and now the air was full of the long twilight of late spring. The blue flowers in her gardens had already vanished into the gloaming with the reds following suit, their colors winking out like candles on a birthday cake. But Lydie’s white peonies and the last blossoms on the apple trees at the far edge of the yard still glowed with reserved sunshine.
She walked slowly, letting her hands brush against the lilacs and caress the tops of the chive blossoms still curled tight in their green globes. By the end of the week, she’d be collecting their lavender flowers to tint her flavored vinegars.
If asked, most folks would have characterized Lydie Talbot as “not much for sentiment.” She didn’t keep scrapbooks or cards or knickknacks. But her gardens…well…they were a different story altogether.
The peonies made her think about Edie Wolfe and how the two women had struggled to dig up just a wee bit of the root stock of the sweet white flowers originally planted by Edie’s mother so that Lydie could have some in her yard.
Her first bachelor buttons had come from Agnes Findley and two of the lilacs in her front yard were suckers from Ruth Goodwin’s dark purple shrubs.
“All my friends are here,” Lydie thought. “And Tom too, helping me dig these beds.”
Halfway to the compost pile with her supper scraps, Lydie Talbot stopped short. Was it? It was…a white bleeding heart. She hadn’t seen one of those in years.
The little one’s flowers were just visible in the twilight, dangling like Christmas ornaments from the plant’s graceful arches. She and Tom had originally collected them from an abandoned garden they discovered on a camping trip in Maine. The memory warmed her heart.
The roots of bleeding hearts grow woody after a number of years so they have to be transplanted in order to be reborn. Lydie stood calculating the years since she’d moved the original plants to a sunnier location. It must be four, five years now.
The pink flowering plants had weathered the move just fine. But for some reason, the white ones, Tom’s favorites, had disappeared.