Honeysuckle and Dad

Rememberances of dad floating on the summer breeze.

Wilmington NC – [Click the Listen button to hear Shelley's commentary.]

Running down the street in that golden time of early evening tonight, it hit me right in the nostrils. That unmistakable sweet perfume of a big bank of honeysuckle wafted its way into my path as I pounded the pavement to rid myself of the stresses the day had thrown across my plate. I was immediately transported back I won?t tell you how many years-- but it was several decades, for sure?to a day in the life of a little girl and a memory of her beloved Daddy.

It was in Cliffside, North Carolina?a tiny town just west of Charlotte. Where my sister and brother and I went barebacked and walked barefoot through the woods to my Daddy?s big vegetable garden. The honeysuckle was thick, its scent heavenly, and we would stop and pluck a blossom and pull the little stamen through the back of the flower where it would make a tiny clear bead of sweetness that tasted like the most concentrated drop of honey dew on the tip ends of our delighted tongues. That smell and taste of that honeysuckle said ?summer.?

About the same time we were helping Daddy plant bean seeds, and peanuts, squash, cucumbers, and lots of things we would end up later snapping and shelling while swinging in the porch swing in front of our little white clapboard house. The first embarrassment I ever remember feeling in my short life was when we were sitting with metal pots in our laps shelling peas one afternoon when I was probably about 4 years old, and I decided to see what happened when a pea is inserted up the nose. After trying to fish it out and succeeding only at pushing it further up into the nasal darkness, I had to admit to Daddy what I had done, knowing in my heart he would fuss at me for my childish impulsivity, or, at the very least, make fun of me for being so silly.

This was also my first dose of grace. Instead of chastising me for my stupidity and the inconvenience to him, Dad just put me in his baby blue power glide Chevrolet and drove me downtown to the doctor?s office and announced matter-of-factly that his daughter had a pea up her nose that needed to be removed. Just as matter-of-factly the doctor pulled out a long and cold pair of stainless steel tweezers and retrieved the lost pea painlessly. Now that I?m a grownup--and a parent-- I can imagine the rolling of eyes and snickering that went on behind the scenes to prevent little me from burning with further shame.

I don?t remember ever getting a lecture from anyone. My wise Daddy knew I had learned my lesson, and we went back home together to shell more peas in the porch swing and trek through the pine straw barefoot to harvest more bounty from our summer garden. Then, as always, we would stop on the way to inhale that heavenly honeysuckle scent that said, and still says, summer?.and home?.and my dear sweet Daddy, long gone but still so present in the breath of every bank of honeysuckle.