By Stephanie Cavanaugh
I’M SITTING on the back porch, staring at the garden, struggling with what to write about this week while being distracted by my toes.
We were in Florida over the Labor Day weekend, celebrating my sister Jeanie’s 90th birthday (she’s old enough to be my mother, in case you’re wondering). The whole family was there: My Prince, my baby sister Bonnie, her daughter and son and grandchildren, my Baby, her toddler Wesley, and her Personal Prince Pete.
There was a big bash with another 20 or so guests in the pool house of Jeanie’s oceanfront condo. Easy stuff, just hot dogs, burgers, piles of sides. Cake. Balloons, many balloons. Jeanie likes balloons. Sinatra on the boom box. Lots of wine and chocolate—what else do you give a 90-year-old who lives in Paradise?
Baby and I were headed back to the apartment to get something or other, maybe pickles. We followed the serpentine path to the side door, meandering through clusters of palms and beds of tropical flowers. The colors here are unreal, like an early Technicolor movie.
I yanked open the heavy, hurricane-proofed door, dragging it right over my left foot, scraping the skin off my middle toe. Ouch.
Blood poured into my Birkenstock Gizeh sandals, which have a previously unappreciated raised rim—which, it turns out, is perfect for pooling blood, keeping it from dripping onto white carpeting. I squished to the elevator, and in the bathroom, Baby gently bathed my toe in the tub, wrapping it in gauze and surgical tape so it was roughly the size of my thumb.
This was very dramatic-looking, though no one at the party noticed, much as I tried for attention. Seems, at the very moment I was being crippled by a door, My Prince’s hand was being bitten by a dog he’d attempted to pet, and he had repaired to the pool terrace in a Shakespearean slump, wearing more swaddling than I was. He took this attack very personally. “I’m a dog person,” he has said, and said. Not that we have one.
I didn’t notice until later that the nail of my fourth toe over, the one between the middle toe and pinkie, was vertically split from tip to cuticle. Baby should have bandaged the whole foot, or maybe not bandaged it so well that there wasn’t just a little seepage—maybe that would have been noted.
Anyway. I’m sitting out here, thinking about gardens and what to write about them. Anderson Cooper, my white parakeet, is sitting beside me, having a loud conversation with one of the little birds that flit about the yard all day. Yes, I know why the caged bird sings. This is more distracting than my toe. Can it, Cooper.
The garden does look nice, I will say that. There was no rain at all in Florida, which usually has a mini-monsoon every afternoon at about 4, often followed by a rainbow over the ocean. This time every day was blindingly sunny and hot, unbearable if you weren’t in the pool or the ocean. We alternated between them then broke for cocktails.
And here we were prepared for a hurricane—sister would have her birthday in the midst of hurricane season. Because of this, we’ve been through several, including Andrew. Now, that was a ballbuster.
Meanwhile, back home, the clouds burst daily, we were told, so everything is lush; the elephant ears and philodendrons have reached prehistoric size, the hibiscus are covered with new buds, as are the jasmines. It’s as if the garden doesn’t realize that fall will be here shortly.
That summer is almost past. Next week, if I live, we’ll tackle early-onset fall.