Saturday, April 17, 2010


On my way to meet a friend for tea this afternoon, I spied a garden full of snap dragons. There they were, all pink and yellow and perky, standing so straight and tall and smiling at me. And my brain whisked me on a sixty second journey.

My grandmother was a passionate flower officianado and an austere disciplinarian on the niceties of social graces. One day when I was very tiny, she called me over to her:

“Frances, come here dear. There’s something I want to show you”.
She reached over to an elegant porcelain vase and slowly withdrew a single snapdragon stem.
“Come closer”.
“You see dear.....”
and POP! My most serious grandmother began to play! She squeezed each blossom on the stem, opening its mouth at me! And she said laughingly:
“They’re little dragons! Here, you try.”

About nine years later when I was twelve and living in India, an Australian doctor lived in the bungalow behind ours. We shared a glorious garden which was brim full of giant snapdragons. One day I decided to pick him some and take them as a bouquet. I took great care in choosing the brightest, juiciest, lovliest. Earlier that afternoon I had been watching my older brother master his bullwhip cracking technique on our front verandah and I happened to not be wearing my glasses. He had said “France, you look good without your glasses” and I was so tickled that I didn’t put them on for the rest of the afternoon. Hence when I went to deliver Dr. Horace’s flowers to him I was without them. I knocked on his door, he answered, I presented the flowers, and back he boomed: “Vanity is thy name oh woman, where are your glasses?” A small part of me still shudders.

About eighteen years later my own daughters were very young and I had grown some exquisite snapdragons in my own southern garden. I showed my four-year-old, Melanie, how to snap the little dragon mouths. To her delight she could oh so gently squeeze the blossoms making dragon kisses on the cheeks and nose of her baby sister, Nina, who cooed and batted her lashes langorously in response.

One little snapdragon garden.
My oh my what a wonder the mind and memory are.
And I was on time for tea.

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