Thursday, April 30, 2015

A Year with Mrs. Appleyard - April


This month’s entry is purely whimsical - a story told to her by man who heard it from his cousin who knew a cousin of the man who cut down the overgrown forsythia bushes at the Arboretum in Jamaica Plain, outside of Boston. Though she suspects it isn’t true, 
when she likes a story she never investigates it. 
Mrs. Appleyard loves forsythias, and 
wonders how people got along in the world before William Forsyth brought this flowering shrub from China. Without the yellow starred sprays that droop over walls, without the tangled thickets that catch the sunlight and hold it, without the patches that seem like sunshine itself on gray days, the time before the leaves come would be bleak indeed.
The forsythias of the story were “so old that they had grown into each other.” When the flowers went by, the leaves filled the branches, “thick enough to keep out rain and hot sun.” The man who passes along this tale said that when the bushes were cut down, they found a whole family of Italians living there. “My cousin says it was their summer cottage.”

Well, Mrs. Appleyard takes such a fancy to this notion that she begins to invent a whole life around this family, which she calls, fittingly enough, the Forsythia family. They lived in the North End of Boston the rest of the year, and settled in their forsythia ‘cave’ during the hot summer months. Some of them worked in the city, and would leave the Arboretum when the gates opened in the morning. Mr. Forsythia kept a fruit and vegetable shop, and 
Doubtless he would often bring home a bag of bananas or tomatoes. They would ripen splendidly in the pleasant twilight and even temperature of the cave.
They did their washing at the edge of the pond. The older son “that rising young stonemason” builds a fireplace upon which his mother “makes an especially succulent variety of spaghetti.” An older daughter worked in a beauty shop and brought home bread.
In fact, the whole thing was idyllic and Mrs. Appleyard thinks it was a great pity that the shrubs were ever cut down. However, they are responding to their pruning and perhaps in a few years …
And thus ends the April installment. What a lovely little children’s book this would make, with delightful illustrations of the Forsythia family and their home and activities. I was utterly enchanted.

You may read about the Arnold Arboretum here. And though this photo is not from the Arboretum, it gives me the feeling that a cozy home could be made underneath the tangle of branches.

17 comments:

  1. She's obviously very imaginative, and the idea of an Italian family living in the forsythia is quite enchanting. So often it is grown up against a fence, and looks thin and straggly, but perhaps we should all let it grow into big bushes. Even if we don't find people living beneath the branches it would look much nicer, and I expect it would be a haven for all kinds of wildlife.

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  2. If they need another tenant ..... Here I am))

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    1. I love that you have the same whimsy perspective as I do!

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  3. As children we played inside a forsythia bush in the neighbor's yard. I don't believe our hideaway was as posh as the one described here, but the bush was dense on the outside and hollow once you got inside.

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    1. In my neighbor's it was thick lilac bushes.

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  4. My neighbors planted a forsythia hedge which they have left to grow wild. Occasionally we feel a bit hemmed in as it is now so tall we can see it above our window sills (second floor) but it is a haven for numerous birds and this week it just burst into bloom. Before we built our house, we lived in a trailer with a forsythia bush against the south facing end and it would bloom mid-winter!

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  5. How I love forsythia! It's wonderful to cut some branches and bring them inside to bloom just at the part of winter when you're sure that springtime will never come. There's something blooming here in southern New Mexico that reminds me of my forsythia back in New Hampshire, but I suspect it's some sort of desert plant. Lovely yellow, though.

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    1. Tom's sister just did this very thing!

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  6. When I was about 13 or 14, I wrote a short poem (which I never showed to anyone) about an early spring morning. Forsythia featured in the poem, and to me, they are still one of THE signs of spring being well and truly here.
    You are right, Nan, the story about the family living under the forsythia would make a wonderful book. But for reasons of political correctness, I doubt any publisher would want them to be of any particular nationality today, especially seeing that it is Italy who have to deal with the highest influx of refugees coming across the Mediterranean (and hundreds of them dying there).

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  7. Let's all go 'up the Arbs' as we kids from JP used to say! What a wonderland it was to play in. Forsythia, apples and cherries flowering, lilacs, rhodies, a brook to follow through the place (although one had to walk out of it and over bridges and culverts as well) and the only place I know where one can still see the occasional mayflower growing wild. A quince arbor covered with fragrant fruit in the fall (I think that's gone now.) A monkey puzzle tree where my parents carved their initials, a small corner where I was kissed in a shower of falling cherry petals by the boy who became my wonderful DH.

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  8. So funny that I remember this bit so well but thought the Italian family lived under Rhododendrons. It's a delightful flight of fancy!

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  9. I may be thinking this because of the children's play place under Rhodos in D.E. Stevenson's Amberwell.

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  10. What a lovely story! It should be a children's book. Children love stories about people living in odd places, I know mine were crazy about the Boxcar Children and oh, what was it where the family lived under the floors?

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    1. The Borrowers, and the sequels, by Mary Norton, who also wrote Bedknob and Broomsticks!

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  11. I was just thinking about Mrs. Appleyard last week and your post must be a sign that it's time for a reread of this fun lady who makes me giggle. Thanks, Nan! Blessings, Debra

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