As a little girl, Ruth Ann had begged Father to plant some ‘grape flowers’ like the ones they had seen along the roadside when they visited relatives in the foothills in late summer.
The following spring, he went out one Saturday morning and returned with a sturdy vine in a large plastic bucket. Ruthie sat in the swing, watching carefully, first as he dug a huge hole and second, as he plopped the plant in it and, with his hands, carefully mounded the soil up and around it, patting it firmly when he was done. He stretched a length of twine from the vine to the wooden crossbeam of the swing and set a tiny tendril against it and then he stood, clapped the dirt from his hands, and sent Ruth Ann for the hose. Together, they would water the vine slowly and with much pomp and ceremony.
Father was a quiet man, folks thought him solemn and respectful; but with his daughter, the light of his life, he was happily guilty of a silly streak a mile wide. When he danced a jig by her bedside when she was sick with flu, Ruth Ann opened wide for the nasty medicine that would bring down her fever. When he wore his Sunday suit and sang a sweet song at her goldfish’s funeral in the garden, she cried and clung to his arm. And one night, when Mother had sent her to her room for being sassy to Father at dinner, he cocked his head and crossed his eyes at her as she left the kitchen, causing her to giggle, and later, when he knocked softly on her door, she was not at all surprised that he had her favorite book under his arm and a glass of warm milk in his hand when he walked in.
As a young girl, there was much that Ruth Ann did not know. But she knew that her father loved her without measure and that, in turn, she adored him beyond words. Everything else didn’t matter much after that.
So now, as he stood over the little plant, a smudge of dirt on his chin and a twinkle in his eye, he raised his right hand above the wisteria and, in a thundering shout, pronounced the vine ‘baptized in the name of summer’ and Ruth Ann un-kinked the hose and the cool water fell over the plant.
The next day, and every day for weeks, she ran outside hoping to see the grape flowers. Each day, the vine marched further up the twine, looping and curling, but no purple flowers; no flowers at all.
Then, one morning she woke to a sweet perfumed breeze blowing through her window. The swing was in riotous, glorious bloom! Clusters of grape-colored wisteria flowers covered it, making a sweet-smelling purple canopy just the right size and place for a little girl and her dolls. Tea parties under the purple chandeliers. Dress up, coloring books, Kool-aid and cookies. Chocolate Easter bunnies and brand new kittens.
And then in the late, late fall, a trim and mulch for warmth under the snow until the spring sun coaxed the tiny green tendrils out again to climb and twist and turn and build a new canopy for the little girl who slept with her window open.
How many summers had it been? How much of Ruth Ann’s life ran through the wisteria vines still now sheltering her from the hot summer sun? Each year, they had met here, grown together through the months and then gone their separate ways; her to have another birthday, the vine to have its annual trim and both to weather the winter months waiting for the bright spring sun to call them up and outside, to bring them together again.