On the third Wednesday of April I show up at ten o’clock sharp for the garden club meeting. The room is spacious, with natural light beaming in through large windows. The area is also used as a studio. A cluster of painted clay bowls are set out to dry on a long wooden table. There at the table a woman places black and white photographs onto a black metal tray. Concentrating, she deftly uses needle-sharp tweezers for the display. Her silver hair, held in place with a red comb, is styled in a messy but elegant bun at the nape of her neck. A Bohemian type, with the embroidered vest and ceramic jewelry. She might have gone to Bennington. The other end of the room has two rows of folding metal chairs arranged for our meeting, with a printed agenda on each seat. Members are drifting in and gathering.
Present at the meeting are six women and one man. The turn-out, Bitsy had told me, fluctuates. In April many residents are still in Florida. The Shady Hollow Garden Club members take care of the planters in the lobby and the perennial beds. I’ve seen these women hovering near the professional landscape crew, advising them how to prune, clip, and shape the shrubbery. They oversee the maintenance of the newly planted locust trees along the main drive. It seems to me those saplings need a lot more water, the newly formed leaves looking wizened. Trees that young need gallons of water. But I keep my mouth shut.
There is an extra chair waiting for me; the seat is unpleasantly cold. A woman named Ethel Ballinger heads the meeting. “We have another new member – a new prospective member, I should say. Bitsy Reynolds caught her in the lobby loosening the flower arrangement.” A soft flurry of chuckles emerges from the group; apparently Bitsy has a reputation for nabbing people. “Meet Adelaide Brooks.” Ethel Ballinger looks like a woman who has spent a lot of time in a garden. She’s wearing an ample denim skirt and rubber footwear. She seems quite affable.
“Adelaide, why don’t you tell us a little about yourself.”
Afraid that was coming, I say: “My name is Adelaide Brooks. Well, I guess you already know that.” A few nods. With a deep breath I continue: “I have lived at Shady Hollow for three months now. My daughters urged me to move here.”