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Commentator Jennifer Gold on Signs of Spring

By Jennifer Gold

Buffalo, NY – My friend Jayme called me and said "Oh Jennifer, I'm so happy! Guess what! Guess what!! So naturally I say "What?" and she says "My wisteria, it's blooming!"

Now I've helped her with her garden and she's been very happy with it. I kept talking about Wisteria and how beautiful it was in the springtime but she didn't know what it was so I showed her a magnificent one in Niagara-on-the-Lake and then she wanted one. Last year we got one from the nursery and planted it so that it would climb up her porch although apparently by this time Jayme, who is a bit of a worrier, was thinking, "Oh! Oh!" what if it pulls the porch down? Only she didn't tell me that until today.

None of this seems particularly interesting except that I have had my wisteria for nine years, in my garden and it hasn't bloomed ever. Every spring I check and wait and hope and every spring I have a thriving, bloomless, plant. I keep hoping and checking well into July such is my desperation to have my Wisteria flower.

Anyway, she tells me how happy she is and that it's all covered in blossoms and she suggests that it is the weather, the cold and rainy weather and she's sure that mine is blooming too. So I tell her I'm going to take a look and out into the garden I go with a flashlight at one o'clock in the morning and I'm looking all over my wisteria which is proudly sprouting, as usual, leaves - just leaves. So back I go inside and punch in her phone number and tell her "Just leaves, that?s it, leaves again." And she says, in this innocent, excited voice, "Mine doesn't have any leaves!" So I interrupt her and say "That's because it's so busy making BLOSSOMS!" And then she said "And I didn't have to whack it, or trim it, or chop up it's roots, or feed it." And she's going on about all the things I have done to mine -- because every person I've talked to tells you to do something different. I've even been out there in full moonlight spraying it with apple juice but nothing, nary a bloom for NINE years. And Jayme is still going on about how she didn't feed it or whack it and I told her the conversation was getting stale and I could hear her saying "I didn't even have to." I put the phone down. Tomorrow I'm getting plastic wisteria blossoms -- maybe if I hang some on the recalcitrant vine it will get the picture and in the meantime I think I'll start measuring cracks in Jayme's foundations.

Now along with my bud-challenged wisteria I have birds. Two sets nest in the walls of my house every year and I am the proud landlord of probably three broods a season from each. When I had the house painted I wouldn't let them cover up the holes where the insulation plugs had popped out. I like thinking of those little birds in there, cozy and safe in their thin feather coats. The starling nest is close to my head so I get the full story. Mother clumps in sometime around late March early April. I can hear her tossing a few twigs around her feet thumping on the ledge. Sometimes there is an altercation with another bird that may have lived there at some time after a great deal of screeching the muffled house cleaning continues. And one day I wake up to tiny cheep cheeps coming through the wall. It's so adorable. It takes about two weeks for the cheeps to get louder and suddenly, it's as if someone flipped a switch I'm being woken up to CHEEP! CHEEP! A five thirty in the morning! A few minutes of silence and them mom or dad crash in with a bug and it starts all over again.

I can't bear to force them to leave although I have been known to throw a book at the wall when it gets really bad and to yell, "Hey you with the beaks, keep it down, you don't even pay rent!" Instantly there is silence and I can picture the yellow corners of their young beaks clammed shut and looking like pieces of folded cheddar cheese. Some day I will cut a rectangle in the wall, put in one way glass and watch them. With a neat little frame around it I can call it living art and surely it will add to the selling value of the house.

The squirrels crash around in the winter. I have made a pact, "don't chew the electrical wiring and you can stay." To date, they have kept up their part of the bargain which is more than I can say for most of my tenants over the years. I was working quietly in the attic once and looked up to see five, tiny, silvery heads peeking out from under their pink blanket of insulation. I can't catch them. I once had humane catchers try to help with the problem but the one they caught sounded so sad sucking gently on it's teeth that I had to let it go. I paid the catcher's anyway, it wasn't their fault they had come to help someone crazy about animals.

Despite two cats, I had rats under the porch for years, and I stress that it was in the past. The five year old boy next door saw them too and wrote me a note. "Dear Jennifer, I saw a rat run under your porch. William." He drew a glum, thoughtful looking rat and I knew I couldn't mess with them. That's when I started naming them. Rodney, Ruth, Rebecca. Yep, it is the house of many, no need for a calendar to know the seasons, couple of months and the wood boring bees and termites should be zooming in. In the meantime I have to find the glue gun and get those plastic wisteria blossoms attached and then fill in my registration for Buffalo in Bloom.