It’s only the last week in March and the hedgerow in the front has leaves. Do you have any idea how strange that is? The lilies are emerging, my beloved hostas are poking up, and that bleepin’ Japanese lilac tree has already started the sucker assault on my front garden.
Let me tell you about that Japanese lilac tree. 23 years later, I still hate that tree. Granted it’s beautiful and it smells good, but it’s got a bad history and though I dream of ripping it out, I cannot.
We moved into the house…the biggest tar paper and chicken wire shack one could ever imagine…in the middle of winter knowing stucco, sod, and landscaping would come with the spring. Our builder introduced us to a young landscaper who was establishing himself in the area as a competent, skilled, and reasonable fellow with whom to do business. We hit it off right away. He drew his vision, I drew my vision, and somehow, we found a common ground. When our next door neighbor nicked our boulders while they were stacked in the yard, he kept Steve from doing something rash…and came up with an alternate plan for the retaining walls. We liked this guy even more when the junior son started “working” for him by carrying “stuff.” He was very patient with a very determined 4 year old, and "paid" him in shiny, new quarters. And we liked him well enough to recommend him to a number of our friends as well as to the synagogue where he was hired for a very large landscape and sod contract.
Anyway, after our initial landscaping was done, I still had to decide on some additional plantings in the front. We went back and forth. We finally settled on an idea, and I asked for an estimate. When he stopped by with the paperwork, I commented that it was more than we had agreed upon and, quite frankly, it was more than I had budgeted.
Then he said it. He used “Jew” as a verb.
I told him to get off my land and never set foot on it again. I turned and went into the house. He came up the stoop and rang the doorbell. I ignored it. He knocked. I ignored that too.
When Steve came home from work, I told him what happened. He explained that in Minnesota “Jew” was sometimes used as a pejorative verb and I would occasionally hear it. I told him I’d heard it before, but thought this guy, doing work for so many Jews, not to mention the shul, should know better. Steve agreed. He called the landscaper and fired him.
The next day when I came home from work, there was a Japanese lilac tree in my front garden, and the landscaper standing, hat in hand (literally) waiting to apologize. I told him to remove the tree. He refused. I told him he’d better pick it up from the curb in the morning where would find it lying on at the end of the driveway.
When Steve arrived, he found me in the front garden with a shovel. He went inside and called the landscaper. I never asked what was said; I never wanted to know. But when Steve came out, he gently told me "the apology tree" would stay.
Oddly, the landscaper moved into our neighborhood. He always greeted me, and I was always polite but cold to him. He always asked after the junior son, and at one point actually asked if he would be interested in a real summer job (he was doing marching band and had to decline) but it wasn’t until Steve died that I actually had a conversation with him. He saw me driving by and flagged me down. He said he’d heard and how sorry he was. And then he asked me if I knew what Steve had said to him that day. I admitted I did not.
The landscaper sighed when he said, “He told me that he stopped you from pulling the tree out. And then he told me that he wanted the tree to stay there so that every time I drove by and saw it, I would remember what I said cost me more than just a few jobs. It cost me his respect and that was much worse. He was right, y’know. It was.”
The damn tree is still there, it’s still beautiful, and it still smells good in the spring. And I still hate it.
But most of all, I hate those damn suckers. They are the bane of my existence; an insidious plot to drive me nuts. For the record, that is a short and less than happy journey.
Wifely Person's Tip O'the Week
Time for you to give me one.
If anyone knows how to put a stop to those damn things, I'm all ears.