Jessica Christine Musgrove

Author. Singer. Actress.
My King is a dragon-slayer.

The Garden on Lovers Lane

I was around four years old.  I was in the house my family used to live in – the small but cozy house made out of rocks on Lovers Lane.  I do not remember much about that house; I only see flashes of faded memories that come all disoriented.  Like my brother coming down the hallway and me begging him for a piece of gum.  Like my Aunt B coming for a visit and sitting at the kitchen table.  Like my fear of the laundry room, because I guess the imaginary monsters lived there.  Like my Pocahontas tent that at one point of a very short span of my life meant the world to me.

I’m pretty certain that at one point as a toddler I peed on the carpet.  Do my parents remember that?  Probably.  I know they remember bringing me home safe and sound after I survived open-heart surgery.  I was born with a tiny hole in my heart, so I guess you could say I was born heartbroken.  But I returned to the house on Lovers Lane repaired.  Besides, a place like Lovers Lane is not meant for broken hearts.

My parents remember me as a baby, shaking my bare booty in front of the television set as Great American Country music videos played.  My parents also remember the tornado of 1996.  My dad held the bathroom door tightly shut, using great strength as I whispered to my mother and brother, “Don’t worry.  Everything will be alright.”  Devastation occurred to many homes along Lovers Lane, but our house remained intact.  Maybe the tornado of ’96 is what caused the night terrors I had, paired with sleep walking.  Apparently, I would walk the halls at night with eyes wide open as my mind ventured down a world of darkness and turmoil.  I’m glad I don’t remember the night terrors.  They have not revisited me since I was three years old.

Memories of my time spent on Lovers Lane have either rusted or faded away completely, but there is one golden path that still shines brightly in my mind—memories of my next-door-neighbors.

I was four years old.  It was a hot summer afternoon, and Mrs. Geneva and her husband, Waymon, were outside tending to their beautiful garden in their backyard.  I ran outside to the back porch, shouted hello and waved, and begged to come over.  With warm welcomes, I stepped foot into their Magical Garden, skipping up and down the Fairy Rock Path that adorned their yard so perfectly.  The Tree Giants hovered above me and my rock path, providing shade.  When the wind softly blew, the leaves and the branches would dance along with me.  So it was then that Mrs. Geneva became my first best friend.

Waymon soon became my second best friend.  I observed him pulling weeds, watering plants, shoveling, planting seeds.  I marveled at the fact he grew his own tomatoes and cabbages.  When Waymon realized I wanted to be a gardener just like him, he surprised me with my own toy garden tool set.  I’m sure I was a big help as I pulled grass and scooped up dirt with my shovel.  But whenever I set foot in their backyard, it was never long before the Fairy Rock Path called my name again, beckoning me to wander into its far off world of fantasy and magic.

How wonderful it was to be that carefree child – That little girl who had not a care in the world what others thought of her face or her figure.  That girl who shook her booty to country music.  That girl whose best friends were two gardeners who never complained when she ran down their garden path whenever she pleased.  

These are the days that are gone now.  These are the days I will never get back.

Soon after turning four, my parents and I moved only a couple of blocks away into the house that became my home.  It is the house where my fondest and saddest memories were made.  Like the time I built a snowman in the backyard and kissed him on the cheek; like the time in the second grade I wanted a dog, and I received Dolly, my Cocker Spaniel, the best birthday present in the world. Like the times Desiree would come over, and we’d play make-believe.  Like the days I felt so lonely I turned to writing as my solace. Like the times my brother was home from college and would play James Bond’s “Golden Eye” with me on the Nintendo 64. 

The house two blocks away from Lovers Lane holds the sounds of laughter, of crying, of shouting, of music, of singing, of barking.  It holds the images of playing and dancing and performing and eating and reading and writing and studying — It holds so much life.

Yet part of my heart still belongs in Mrs. Geneva’s garden.  Even after moving, I would visit her home.  I would often put on her apron, grab her rolling pin, and pretend as though I was a professional chef in her kitchen.  She’d make me her famous bologna sandwich, and we’d talk for hours or write songs together or watch movies.  But eventually, we’d end up outside in her backyard, with me running down the Fairy Rock Path.  She’d sit in her white chair and make sounds the mockingbirds would imitate.

I loved listening to her stories.  Rebellious stories of her and her friend trying to get kicked out of class so they could leave school and go purchase a Coca-Cola.  Stories of her life in California, eating picnics in the desert and gazing up at the myriad of stars in the sky. Stories of owning her own restaurant.  Stories of her belly dancing, world-traveling granddaughter.  Stories of her mother’s long, raven black hair and her hot and spicy food.  Stories of her first son’s unexpected death and her second son who died from cancer years later.

Mrs. Geneva’s husband, Waymon, did not live long enough for me to know him in the way I would’ve liked.  Cancer got him, too.  I remember entering their house the day of the funeral, surrounded by people I didn’t know, looking with sadness at the urn on the living room mantle next to Waymon’s picture.  I remember staring at his old rocking chair.  That was his chair, and I just knew that chair must be missing a dear friend.  Waymon had a cheerful soul.  That much I knew about him.

Several years ago now, Mrs. Geneva’s mind began slowly to deteriorate.  She was in and out of a nursing home, and just when she would start feeling better, something else would go awry, and she’d find herself right back in that nursing home, which was not a home—only a cold building not meant for someone like her, who was free-spirited and young at heart.

Mrs. Geneva sometimes mistook me for one of her family members.  That never bothered me.  I was and am her family, as she is mine.

What did bother me was that her mind was sick and I could not help her.  And what continues to bother me to this day is the mystery that has yet to be solved.  Driving past her house one day, my mom and I discovered a “For Sale” sign.  The inside of the house was empty of her belongings.  Her family had moved her away, had moved everything away.  My neighbor, my friend, my family member was gone.  My mom called her home number, but the line had been disconnected.  We left a note on the front door with our names and numbers, hoping we could persuade her family to give us a call.

To this day, I have no idea where my best friend is or what exactly happened.  Maybe by now, she is in heaven with her Savior whom she loved.  There is a part of me that hopes this is the case.  I hope she has entered into His gates with a heart full of gladness.  I hope she has run into His arms and felt His embrace.  I hope she is dancing and singing, with a mind free from Alzheimer’s Disease.  I hope she is tending to a heavenly garden that will never wither. 

Mrs. Geneva’s backyard is no longer the garden it once was.  It’s unkempt.  It’s overtaken with weeds.  How I long to find that little girl in that flower dress and lead her back to that Fairy Rock Path and watch her skip down that path so Mrs. Geneva’s garden could come alive once more.

But now that garden will forever remain a worn-out dream.

One day, however, I will see Mrs. Geneva again.  I will see Waymon and my Nannie and my Pop.  Together, we will skip merrily down the golden paths to worship our King.  And we will skip, and we will skip, and we will skip.  For all eternity.

Until that day, I’ll just have to keep revisiting the memories of my dear friend and her lively garden on Lovers Lane.






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