Monday, June 6, 2011

Father's Favorite Flowers

My Dad's favorite wildflower must have been Phlox. I remember him showing me the plant when I was young, making sure I took a whiff of the spicy scented flowers and took notice of the color ranges in the bloom throughout the season. When he spotted them along the road as we drove by he would ask "What kind of flowers are they?" And I would reply proudly with "Phlox!"Now I know that they are specifically called Blue Phlox, Woodland Phlox, or Wild Sweet William. The scent IS wonderful. I can remember Dad always saying "I smell Phlox" as we rode in the car. Or if we were walking he would often hunt them down, by following his nose. He sometimes brought bouquets of them home with him, to be placed in a vase. Though they didn't last long after being cut, it was well worth it, since they brought so much pleasure for that short time before they wilted away.

By Memorial Day the Phlox are just coming into full bloom in Northern Pennsylvania, and each year as we made the trip to visit family cemetery plots in Blossburg Pa. it was his habit to walk across the road to see the flowering Phlox growing along the creek before we left to return to New York, where it would usually be another week before they opened their fragrant petals.
I have many times tried to transplant the wild variety in my flower gardens at home, and finally did succeed in having the perennial reappear the next year and even spread a little. I much prefer the wild variety to the garden species, but that may be just because it will forever remind me of Dad.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Grandpa Kyler's Cigarette Dispenser

This small wooden wall plaque, with a box built into it was in my parent's basement when I was a young child. It had an old coat of pink paint, and hung on a nail that just happened to be there . . . though I seem to remember it stuffed with receipts, or small paper items at one time. I had asked about it every so often and was told by my Parents that my Grandpa Kyler had made it back when he was a foreman at a remote (Pennsylvania?) logging camp and that he filled it each day with rolled cigarettes for the men to enjoy when they returned in the evening from their hard labor. When I was older, I asked my Dad if I could strip the paint off of it to it's original wood and then varnish it so we could hang it up and use it. It had many layers of tan, white and green paint underneath the pink color. When I finally got down to the last layer, I noticed that there was writing showing through in spots. I soon found that on the front of his cigarette dispenser Grandpa had written in permanent ink "Take One". It now hangs in my kitchen offering up another often desired item . . . I keep it filled with decorative packages of toothpicks.

Albert William Kyler Sr. was really my 'Step' Grandpa, since my Grandma Derr had remarried after being widowed at a young age. Since my Mother was just a baby when Grandpa Derr died, I never met my biological Grandfather. Grandpa Kyler was the only Grandpa I knew on my Mom's side. To me, he was Grandpa and I loved him. And the story of the plaque sounded just like something he would do. I remember him as a quiet, kind man who told me stories and sat outside with me and talked while we whittled. He would say "See that stick over there? Get it for me, Honey." When I handed it to him he would break it in half and give me one part, then he would reach in his pocket and bring out two pocket knives. His, and another smaller one for me to use. I don't remember ever actually carving anything, we just whittled while we relaxed and talked quietly. Sometimes we whittled the whole stick away and had to find another one to work on. Whenever we went outside to sit, I would just be waiting for him to ask me to find a stick. After it had become a ritual with us, I sometimes asked "Grandpa, you want me to hunt for a stick?" or "You wanna whittle, Grandpa?" He would laugh and say "I think I just might have our pocket knives." And it seems he always did have them when I asked. But he always put "my" knife back in his pocket when we tired of using them, because I was too young to have a knife of my own.

I still sometimes wonder what ever happened to that little knife...