Honeysuckle Hedge

As part of his Narrative Therapy I asked Westley if he had any stories he had written as a boy. I suggested perhaps something about nature, maybe a class assignment “My Summer Job.” Remarkably, he had one, written for Mrs. Lockerman’s literature class of 1962, when Westley was fourteen years old. 

Honeysuckle Hedge By Westley Enigam, 1962

The hedge, it’s my job to maintain it. My allowance depends on it. They think it’s tough work. It’s my secret that I like everything about it. The honeysuckle hedge has taught me so much about birds and bees and other interesting stuff.

Mom says the hedge is our botanical garden. I call it my honeysuckle jungle. It runs along one side of our property. The vines have grown around the rail fence holding them up. Miss Gloria lives on the other side. She doesn’t like honeysuckle … she said so. I have to trim her side of the hedge so she won’t complain too much.

Every day this summer there is so much life and activity in the vines, like little green snakes and the bugs they like to eat. I never tell Miss Gloria about the snakes. She may harm them. Honey bees, bumble bees and a few wasps are all competing for the flowers. My favorite is the hummingbirds. There are several different species, all very pretty. They love the sweet smelling honeysuckle. Hundreds of them are buzzing around all the time. They fly so fast it feels like they will run into me, but they never do.

My biology teacher has shown me how to tell the difference in the male and female birds. He explained how they mate and lay eggs and make new hummingbirds. I’ve seen them in the tiny nests, so cute. He explained bee society, and how the male bees don’t make honey, and are kicked out to die in winter, and the female bees make new drones each spring. He showed me in the book about how the birds and bees and the flowers are symbiotic, and I learned about evolution that way. The birds and bees pollinate the flowers and eat the nectar, as a gift. The bees make their honey for the winter from the nectar.

I just love nature.

I think Miss Gloria doesn’t understands all that. I tried to explain it to her, the birds and the bees. She just smiled. Dad and Mom were talking about Miss Gloria last week at the dinner table. Mom said we should invite Miss Gloria and our friend Dr. Phil for dinner. Dr. Phil is really nice, but talks too much. Dad said, “It wouldn’t work, her chooser is broken. I’m sure Dr. Phil would tell her she needs to work on her chooser on her side of the hedge before crossing over to this side.” Mom looked at me and said, “It would be interesting to hear what Miss Gloria has to say to Dr. Phil about that.” I wanted to hear it too. Maybe then I could know without asking what part of a woman is her chooser and how Dad and Dr. Phil know Miss Gloria’s is broken. So I suggested, “Maybe invite them to join us Sunday for church, then for lunch here together.” We all agree, the invitations are an excellent idea.

Miss Gloria is often reading books and writing stuff while she sits in the shade of her porch. That is when she’s home. Dad says she’s in a war, fighting the pastry-oracle domination, and goes to New York and Toledo and California and makes speeches to the front lines. It’s something to do with “power taken is empowerment itself.” She’s looking for her self-determination. I heard her say so. Dad says it’s hers to take but she thinks the Boogeyman took it from her.

Miss Gloria has twelve hummingbird feeders hanging on the eves around her porch. She complains that the hummingbirds like the honeysuckle far more than her sugar-water. I know what’s going on with that. She needs to borrow a biology book or something to read up.

There were some things that I didn’t understand. So I sort of made my chance to ask her. I was trimming her side of the hedge last Wednesday, after school, and she was on the porch, reading and writing. I asked her, “Why are the hummingbird feeders and sugar-water so important?”

She said, “Because it makes me feel good about myself. In my own mind, I am still a fat brunette from Toledo, and I always will be.”

I understand that. After all, tending the botanical honeysuckle garden for the hummingbirds and bees and green snakes feels pretty good. It’s not work at all for me. Nature does the hard part. It must be frustrating for Miss Gloria. All her sugar-water when nature’s honeysuckle is right there, in the hedge.


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