Slice of Life: A Collision of Memory


Garden Stroll, First Posted on Instagram

Being retired certainly has me in the mood for adventures. It was a beautiful morning when I randomly decided I was going to pack my lunch and visit Dawes Arboretum. The drive would be about an hour there and another back so the adventure would take a considerable chunk of my day, but I knew it would be worth it. 

I walk into the kitchen to find Grandma busily packing our lunch. She has her tennis shoes on today so I know we were headed for an adventure. Sandwiches stacked on the counter, chips in baggies, and watermelon cut in neat rectangles. Grandma arranges our lunch in her cooler. I wonder to myself what treat is tucked away. Her lunches always have some little delicious surprise. Grandma places everything we would need for the day in her trunk. We all pile into the backseat of the car ready for adventure.

I got in my car, turned on my Amazon playlist, and headed toward the freeway. Driving to the other side of our city always reminds me of my grandparents. Spending time with them, I had learned all the cities and interesting places in their orbit. The sun was shining brightly and the sky was the bluest of blue as I pulled into the park. "I have a ticket reservation," I informed the woman at the entrance, having purchased a ticket online before leaving this morning wondering what Grandma would think of a fee for entrance to the arboretum. She found my name, handed me a map, and my adventure began.

Grandma drives us through the entrance and into the park. A large group of evergreens loom all around us as we snake our way through the roads of the arboretum. 

Not quite remembering where the Japanese garden was located and in the mood for adventure, I put the map on my seat and decided to follow the auto signs around the park. The first stop was an education center, the home of the Dawes family which had been turned into a museum, and a trail with wind sculptures that wrapped around a pond. This area had been added since my last visit years ago so I decided to go for a walk. The weeping cherries were in full bloom and the daffodils were not to be outdone. The walk felt good after the long drive.

As we weave toward our destination, Grandma tells the story of her aunt and uncle that used to live on the property. Her uncle cared for the property at the time. This is how she came to know the arboretum. She often brought my mom and uncle here to visit the pair. Grandma reminisced as she drove. 

I got back into my car, ready to find the Japanese garden I remembered so vividly. The arboretum is pretty quiet. There is an occasional walker, a small group of preschool children, and a few cars touring the grounds.  Finally, I see it, with three small picnic tables off to the side of the parking lot: The Japanese Garden. I get out of my car and walk toward the trail. It doesn't look much different. I take a minute to read the sign at the entrance of the trail and chuckle, "Designed to provide an escape from the restlessness and confusion of the workday world." I quietly start my walk knowing full well there was nothing quiet about us when we visited long ago. 

Finally we reach our favorite spot. Grandma gets out of the car, opens her trunk, and hands my cousin, my brother, and me an old bread bag filled with bread. We head off excitedly down the trail that surrounds the pond. Trees and flowers line the trail, but we do not notice. We have one thing in mind: the bridge. We race to the bridge leaving Grandma far behind. The bridge is all the way on the other side of the pond. We finally arrive out of breath and station ourselves on its rails. The giant goldfish (okay, they were koi) seem to already know we are there. We begin throwing our bread over the side and watch them rise to the top to eat. The occasional race to a piece of bread adds a little extra entertainment to our time on the bridge. 

Nothing as changed. The small shelter is still there. The rock bridge that provides a shortcut across the pond for the adventurous. The flowering trees surround the water. Finally I arrive at the bridge only to find it has been locked. No longer can you get on the bridge and stand. I'm not sure what Grandma would think about this change. I walk as close as I can, take a few pictures, and then work my way back to my car. I don't see the koi. Maybe it's still too cold for them to come to the top of the water. Maybe they aren't there anymore. As I near the end of the pond I notice one really large orange fish with dark spots near the water's edge. I eat my sandwich reminiscing about all the good times and then begin my drive around the rest of the park. I stop here and there as I work toward the exit to do all the things we did long ago.

We leave the bridge and walk the rest of the trail. Grandma grabs our picnic lunch and carries it to the nearby tables. She hands us our sandwiches and sides - and a cold bottle of Coke tucked into the ice. We laugh and talk and eat and laugh and talk and eat. Finally, we clean up our lunch and get back into the car. Along the way out, Grandma tells us more stories about her aunt and uncle. We make a few stops: the hedges trimmed to spell out Dawes Arboretum, another pond, the cemetery from long ago. Then Grandma loads us all back into the car and we head back to her house. Another adventure in the books.

As I exit, I decide to purchase a membership. I want to come back when the trees transition from flowering blooms to leaves. I want to watch the flower parade across the summer. Most of all, I want to come back to this place that holds so many memories. 

It's Tuesday. Today I join the Two Writing Teachers Community to share a little slice of life. Stop by today's Two Writing Teachers post to join the conversation or enjoy a little snapshot of life. 



  1. This is beautiful!!! I love the way you went from the past to the present. I have to tell you that this brought more than one tear to my eye. My mom loved Dawes Woods and all it's memories just like you do today. Maybe someday you can take Jordyn and Layne on a picnic and add a third dimension to your story. Your grandma loved you with all her heart! Precious memories..

  2. So many new adventures await you in retirement and how lovely that you get to relive some older memories too. I love the way you blended time.

  3. Beautiful. I came right along with you!

  4. The beauty of the moment, the sweetness of memory - a perfect recipe for delight. I loved this post with your current thinking blended with your memories. And I'm glad you bought a membership. Dawes Arboretum deserves your attention and words.


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