Earlier this year with the last several inches of a late winter’s snow slowly melting away, I technically made my second trip to Longwood Gardens, “one of the premier horticultural display gardens in the United States,” near Philadelphia. I say technically because many years ago on my first trip I had an obstructed view.
Even with the outdoors still covered in white and the latest renovations to fountains weeks away from completion, this year’s flowers and plants beckoned inside a multistory, multi-acre greenhouse. The sounds of rippling water were never far away as I walked from one garden to another under shrouds of hanging greenery, past cacti, ducking dangling orchids and gazed upon an impeccable lawn.
Everything in one way or another came back to the water, and as much as I saw and heard it running, I kept hearing my mom who died more than a decade earlier. From little on up she told me about the Longwood Gardens that I didn’t see on my first visit.
Many times, she told me how she and my dad went along with his parents to Longwood Gardens. Since Mom and Pop hardly ever traveled, this was a big deal. Unlike when I went this year, Longwood back then was in full operation, although based on what I can tell from its history, maybe half the size of today’s sprawling 1,000 acres. Even that area was a sizable tract of land not far from the big city.
Mom told me the flowers were beautiful, although she couldn’t stand around long to admire them. There was always a water fountain nearby, and every time she saw or heard the water running, she had to rush to the restroom. After a few such trips, my grandmother said to her, “You’re pregnant!” Sure enough, in a few days Mom’s doctor confirmed that she was great with me.
That’s why my view was obstructed on my first trip to Longwood Gardens, but I heard about it for many years after I was born. Years later, Mom returned without me to see the flowers and water fountains. After having another boy and three girls after me and, now beyond her child-bearing years, she could chance seeing more running water.
So, now I’ve returned, and I can see clearly now what all the fuss was about. With much of the gardens yet to be revealed, there’s another day trip beckoning this summer. I did learn that, for whatever reason, when I went back this last time, the fountains didn’t affect me the same way as they did for Mom. Yet, I kept wondering if all the cascading waterfalls weren’t an endless stream of pregnancy tests. Does the water turn blue if another baby is on board? This and other mysteries await my return.
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