Posted By David Licata on August 16, 2013
I spent my teens and early 20s in a lovely New Jersey suburb. My family had moved from a super urban city to this place covered in green. There were trees, shrubs, and grass everywhere, and being city folks, we didn’t really know how to take care of these things. I did my best to learn, but our grass was always weed-ridden, the pachysandra never took, our forsythia were old and spent. But we did have one prize bit of flora, a climbing, purple-petaled clematis. It loved our soil and it loved the lamppost it clung to, year after year. One year my father attached a piece of string from the lamppost to a branch that hung several feet above it, and the clematis dutifully climbed it. Its flowers were velvety and plentiful. All of our neighbors commented on how beautiful it was; it was our pride and joy.
My parents moved in 2002 and I had no reason to visit the house. On a whim one warm summer day a few years ago I biked there. The house had changed a little. No screen door, a different front door, a mail box where there was none before, and most startling, no clematis.
Or rather no clematis on a new lamppost.
But there was a clematis climbing in the front yard of the neighbors my parents left, the Venustis. It was purple, not as deep a purple as ours but close, and it wove itself through a wagon wheel that was clearly on the Venustis’ property but very near what was once our property.
My parents had a cordial relationship with the Venustis. Mr. Venusti was a good neighbor. He’d go fishing in the early morning hours and bring my mother fresh Bluefish in the afternoon. I can’t tell you how much this meant to my mother, who was renowned for her seafood. If he had his trimmer out, he’d often prune our ungainly hedges. He did this selflessly and, honestly, I’m not sure my parents properly returned his favors.
I don’t know what Mr. Venusti was thinking when he planted a clematis there, and sadly I’ll never get the chance to ask him. But I like to think the Venusti clematis is a little bit memorial, a little bit thanks, and a little bit passed torch. I like to think this kind of thing happens frequently, in many different and subtle ways. I like to think that at some point, perhaps when the Venusti clematis is no more, a neighbor will plant a purple clematis in their front yard.
Thinking this comforts me.
Thanks for reading.