Anyway, forget-me-nots, a staple in the country cottage gardens when I was a boy, allowed to wander in and out wherever they would, light blues peeking out from between the greens and pinks and yellows like tiny blue stars. My Gran's garden, just a mass of things that grew as it pleased, nothing ever planted - it just seemed to appear... what a place to be a boy who played his days away.
Lilac tree stands, multiple trunked and twisted, so sweet smelling, tumbling, flowers. We picked the fragrant fronds and stirred the cold tap water to make scent that later was left to brown and stink. We, my cousin and I, were going to make our fortunes selling this sickly smelling concoction to passers-by from the light blue iron garden gate, the one I was told not to swing on, but did anyway. Of course we never sold a single jar, nor our rose petal, or lilac, or the tall peach hollyhock that grew by the gate - which one day snapped its hinges as I swung; but we were perfumers nonetheless, our goods laid out on an old painted kitchen chair for the price of a shining sixpence.
Looking back now I see it in a Dickensian sepia - my Gran in hairnets, pinafores and aprons, the mangle, Aunty Flo and Uncle Ned next door. Uncle Ned seldom seen, a smiling shuffling man in an old brown suit and collarless shirt. Different days back then; days of lamb stews, a mouse in the kitchen fireplace, the blackened coalman delivering his brown sacks directly to the kitchen, the cats that were kept to catch the mice. Such different days; days of different priorities and values and games for boys to play.
We’d build camps in the lilac stands, pick our way through the tall nettles and docks (one to calm the other) and run in the brightness of marigolds and self-seeded sunflowers to the place where Uncle Charlie carried the bucket, brim full of water, and the box full of mewling kittens. We never talked about what he did there, just watched open-mouthed till it was done, the hole filled in, and Charlie’s tears wiped away from behind his thick glasses. He never knew that we were there in the lilac, different days, different priorities and values, just boys with games to play.
Later we left a jam-jar full of gentle blue stars as a remembrance of the softness of their stroking and the roughness of their tiny tongued kisses. Grown men have things to think about and decisions to make, cats are kept to catch the mice, and boys just play their days away. Forget-me nots? Never, how could I?