Love like this can never die.
In the blue-collar neighborhood where I grew up lived an old Italian couple named Polly and Menta who loved children, sunflowers, Italian music and each other.
Right there in the middle of our concrete city, Polly and Menta had cultivated a lush green vegetable garden, complete with hand-split bean poles, trellises, Italian fig trees and tomato plants, two rabbits, three cats, five chickens and a raggedy old rooster that could barely crow. The whole neighborhood liked that rooster, and we loved Polly and Menta.
Menta was short and quiet, with big hands, gentle brown eyes, and a perpetual smile. He wore flannel shirts, red long johns and faded bib overalls year ‘round. Polly was taller, straighter and more outgoing. Like the big yellow sunflowers in their garden, she had a sunny disposition that lit up our neighborhood and our lives.
It’s interesting what we remember from our childhood. Somewhere in my mind’s eye there’s a special place that can picture Polly and Menta working side-by-side in their garden. I can see them putting on their gloves together each morning. Smiling and planning their day. Feeding the birds that came to sing for them. Shooing the cats away from the chickens. Saying grace together over a lunch of fresh beans, tomatoes and onions from the garden. And then dozing and smiling in the afternoon sun, usually holding hands.
Years later, when I returned home from college, I decided to go over to Polly and Menta’s house early one night. I knew that Menta was growing frail, and I hoped to visit with him if their lights were on. Walking up the alley, I stopped at their gate and looked across the garden to their kitchen window. I could just barely hear an Italian tune playing on their old record player, and I could clearly see Polly and Menta swaying to the music. They had pushed the chairs in the kitchen back a little so they could hold each other and dance once more.
When Menta died that winter, Polly went back to the Old Country for several weeks to grieve. But in the spring she was back in her garden again. Planting sunflowers and vegetables. Feeding the birds that came to sing for her. Shooing the cats away from the chickens. Saying grace over her lunch of fresh beans, tomatoes and onions from the garden…and then dozing and smiling in the afternoon sun…probably holding hands.
An excerpt fromThe 2 Book by Dan Zadra and Kobi Yamada, Copyright by Compendium, Inc.