Shady Hollow Garden Club – Camilla Lee

On the third Wednesday of April I show up at ten o’clock sharp for the garden club meeting. The room is spacious, with natural light beaming in through large windows. The area is also used as a studio. A cluster of painted clay bowls are set out to dry on a long wooden table. There at the table a woman places black and white photographs onto a black metal tray. Concentrating, she deftly uses needle-sharp tweezers for the display. Her silver hair, held in place with a red comb, is styled in a messy but elegant bun at the nape of her neck. A Bohemian type, with the embroidered vest and ceramic jewelry. She might have gone to Bennington. The other end of the room has two rows of folding metal chairs arranged for our meeting, with a printed agenda on each seat. Members are drifting in and gathering.

Present at the meeting are six women and one man. The turn-out, Bitsy had told me, fluctuates. In April many residents are still in Florida. The Shady Hollow Garden Club members take care of the planters in the lobby and the perennial beds. I’ve seen these women hovering near the professional landscape crew, advising them how to prune, clip, and shape the shrubbery. They oversee the maintenance of the newly planted locust trees along the main drive. It seems to me those saplings need a lot more water, the newly formed leaves looking wizened. Trees that young need gallons of water. But I keep my mouth shut.

There is an extra chair waiting for me; the seat is unpleasantly cold. A woman named Ethel Ballinger heads the meeting. “We have another new member – a new prospective member, I should say. Bitsy Reynolds caught her in the lobby loosening the flower arrangement.” A soft flurry of chuckles emerges from the group; apparently Bitsy has a reputation for nabbing people. “Meet Adelaide Brooks.” Ethel Ballinger looks like a woman who has spent a lot of time in a garden. She’s wearing an ample denim skirt and rubber footwear. She seems quite affable.

“Adelaide, why don’t you tell us a little about yourself.”

Afraid that was coming, I say: “My name is Adelaide Brooks. Well, I guess you already know that.” A few nods. With a deep breath I continue: “I have lived at Shady Hollow for three months now. My daughters urged me to move here.”

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  1. Barbara Crouchley says:

    Camilla’s quiet humor and her observant eye make all these characters real and familiar. And her simple sentences laced with such wit ( between the isobars my mind also wanders). Love reading her short stories. Thank you for publishing this….. I’ll see you there but not in the garden club!

  2. isabel Goff says:

    Loved the story Camilla. Thanks. Izzy

  3. Sarah Lee says:

    Great short story! Love the setting and characters. They were all very well developed. I could smell the lilacs!

  4. Freya says:

    Brilliant! Perfect! Spot on! More!

  5. Perfect!! LEE’s timing is spot on. She never lingers too long nor hammers hard on the surprises. Didn’t want the story to end…more PLEASE from this gifted, wry, insightful writer!

  6. MaryEthel Stack says:

    I can hear your voice, Camilla. Glad you can write so positively about community living. Hope you are going to stay in your big, old house. Enjoyed this story.

  7. Judy Taft says:

    Wonderful story by Camilla Lee. She has a seemingly effortless style, a slightly wicked sense of humor, and spot on-observations about people, in this case, the inhabitants of a retirement home.Would love to read more of her work!

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