We bought our first house in October of 1998, two years after we were married. It was built in 1913 and was the perfect size for us, one lofted bedroom on the top floor with a claw foot tub in the bathroom. The main floor had a huge kitchen two bedrooms, living and dining rooms and a perfect kitchen nook that ryan built in benches. The basement had a sunken TV room that was cool in the summer and freezing in the winter, but it was cozy with blankets and wonderful for snuggling with your new husband and learning to knit.
The back yard at this house was huge since the house was close to the street and on a corner and we spent the first couple of years working tirelessly to make it lovely. We built a huge wrap around deck, put in veggie and flower beds and it was beautiful. On our 5th wedding anniversary Ryan built a swing and hung it from the huge walnut tree and we spent countless hours dreaming up the rest of our lives together; future gardens, fantastic adventures and the children we'd rock to sleep on the perfectly squeaky swing.
The year Ryan's grandma Johanna died, we happened upon an azalea at the nursery named the Johanna azalea. It was a beautiful rich red with tiny leaves that turned reddish-orange in the fall. Since some of the plants in our yard had been transplanted all the way from Michigan from her garden, we bought two and planted them side by side to honor her and Ryan's grandpa who passed shortly before. They thrived, and every spring and summer graced us with amazing flowers and foliage.
In October of 2004 we found and bought the house we live in now. It also had a good sized yard for being in the city, and also needed a LOT of work outside. We couldn't part with many of the amazing plants we had in our first garden, so the week before we sold it, we transplanted all of our favorites, including the two Johanna azaleas. We worried about them surviving the move, but just like us, they did.
We spent the next two years continuing to try and bring a child into our home and thankfully by spring 2006 she was on her way. That spring we hired a landscaping company to implement the design that my patient and landscape architect had created for our back and side yard, and the Johannas were moved again. Again, they continued to thrive, even though gardening (and cats) went on the back burner as our lives began to revolve around the little person we'd worked so hard to create.
Fast forward to winter 2008, when we had the biggest snow and ice storm I'd ever lived through, and that Portland had seen in a very long time. In the end, we spent 3 weeks hardly leaving the house and neighborhood, had 18 inches of snow on the ground and had survived countless days well below freezing. We'd survived, with lots of soup, movies and friends who also were stuck in our neighborhood, and frankly, it was kind of fun.
Spring 2009, we watched and waited to see what plants would survive the harsh winter, and were surprised that almost everything did. My favorite maple tree slowly died off and took with it my hopes of creating new life in my womb, and sadly, the Johanna azaleas failed to come back. On a visit to my office, I asked my landscaper what she thought, and she said "Korin, they're dead, let em go." Once I explained their significance, she sighed, gave me a pat on the shoulder and told me to water them relentlessly and hope for the best.
Hope. Hope? yeah, hope. That ever elusive emotion, belief, fervent dream, HOPE. And so I did. I watered them. They looked like lifeless sticks coming out of the dry parched earth, surrounded by thriving weeds. I pulled the weeds, mulched the soil, and watered the heck out of them. I tried to hope, really, I did, but not much happened. By the end of summer 2009, there were a couple of tiny leaves on each plant, but mostly they looked like they were dead. By the time September came, I couldn't bear to give up on them, even tho I'd given up on me when our final IVF ended in miserable failure.
Winter came again, and everything in the garden was ignored, as was our quest for a second child as we focused on Ruby's speech and social growth. In the back of my mind, I knew i'd need to broach the subject with Ryan about pulling those azaleas out and replacing them with something else once spring arrived.
Spring arrived, and it was wet and gloomy and lackluster. However, to our great surprise, the azaleas started coming back. The dead stalks slowly, one by one started putting out tiny reddish-green leaves on one of the plants and then finally this summer, the second one followed suit. They didn't produce any flowers, but there is always next spring. The plants that have lived with us for 8 years weren't dead, they just needed a break after the harsh, heartbreaking winter of 2008 to regenerate their faith in themselves before they could bear to give it another shot.
If they can do it, so can I.