Virginia was terribly chagrined that she forgot to bring flowers, her intended house warming present, the day we went to lunch together.
I laughed and told her to surprise one of her new neighbors, since she lives 20 minutes away and she is even newer to Lancaster County retirement community living than we are.
But, wouldn’t you know it. The next morning we were drinking coffee in the living room when we spotted a white-haired woman exiting a car outside our door. Of course, it was Virginia, facing into the wind with the determination of a figurehead at the bow of a boat, she climbed the front steps, beaming, flowers in hand. She tendered the vase, explaining that she had found the blazing red leaves in her new backyard.
Together we admired all the colors, so full of end-of-summer, falling.
The pink dahlia.
And finally, the whole bouquet as it claimed its rightful place in the middle of the dining room table.
I should have known it would be fruitless to try to dissuade Virginia Spicher from bringing the flowers she had especially selected and arranged as her gift. When we were neighbors in Harrisonburg, Stuart and I sometimes invited Virginia and John to our deck to enjoy the sunset over the mountains, and she would always bring flowers. When we were about to leave the Shenandoah Valley, she gave me a very special blue lustre vase from her collection.
I have given that vase to my daughter because it matches her decor beautifully.
Today, however, I know what I really want to give her. A poem. I’ll write it out by hand and take it to her. Then I’ll tape it to the base of the vase.
The poem in question was written by Virginia’s daughter. If you want to hear Garrison Keillor read it, you can do it here.
I loved this poem before I ever met Virginia. I met her daughter, the poet Julia Kasdorf, soon after she published her first book of poetry and returned to read from it at one of her alma maters, Goshen College. For years, I’ve had the pleasure of observing Julia observing her mother, on the page and in person, naming the profound connective tissue that underlies all of us. Julia the mature woman has selectively internalized what she first saw from the outside as a young girl.