I can’t believe I’m saying this.
“That’s a great idea,” David says. He’s in good shape. I’ve seen him running on the trail around the campus. What he’s wearing appeals to me: a pinstripe oxford shirt, possibly Brooks Brothers. And khaki pants. “If you want, I could help cut the lilacs. The ones that are hard to reach.” I like his tortoiseshell glasses. David and I arrange to get together and gather lilacs.
We plan a meeting at 11:00 on Saturday at the lilac grove. David has arranged to have the grounds crew leave a ladder and some pruning tools. It’s ridiculous, but I feel smug that the only man in the garden club has offered to be my partner.
What I’m doing now is also ridiculous. I am taking a serious look at my wardrobe. Strewn across the bed and piled over chairs I have laid out a vast number of garments. What to wear for the lilac-picking has become a serious matter. Yet I want to make it seem as if I haven’t given it any thought at all. Now, looking with fresh eyes, I’m horrified at the condition of my clothes. My favorite sweater, a yellow Shetland wool, has a coffee stain on the front. (I bought it in Bermuda thirty years ago.) It’s a good sweater – you can’t get quality like that anymore. Why do I have two suits? Get rid of one, I tell myself. I could go shopping, but my favorite store, the Country Woman, went out of business years ago. Everything’s by mail and catalogs. I miss stores.
The Saturday morning is cool and sunny, perfect for cutting lilacs. I wear jeans, a yellow sweater, and a green down vest that covers the stain. I bring my own pruning shears. When I arrive at the site, David is there, in a blue sweatshirt and Red Sox cap. “Good morning,” he calls. “A perfect day. Not a cloud.”
“Yes, May can be so iffy.”
“I’ll go up the ladder and cut the highest blossoms,” David says. “Then toss them to you, gently. You’d better do the trimming part. I know there’s some special angle you’re supposed to do.” Clipping the branches feels good. Well, sort of good. The arthritis is painful, but my hand remembers how to cut the woody stems at a certain angle. Snip snip snip. I pretend my hand doesn’t hurt.