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.