‘Landscapes and Inscapes
Drawn to History with a Brush of Serendipity’
In my garden of memories, there is one particular place I would like to share with you. When Mom, Dad and I first came to Kingston, we lived in an apartment at 221 King Street East, on the corner of Earl Street. It was then known as the “Elizabeth Inn,” a club for Army, Navy and Air Force servicemen. It was run by two kind ladies, Mrs. Richey and her sister. I enjoyed hearing the music that came from an old floor model wind-up Victrola gramophone.
At that time, there was a beautiful veranda on two sides of the house where I loved to play on rainy days. Across the street was Berman’s store. Mom would often take me there and buy me a treat. Every day, I waited excitedly for the horse-drawn milk and bread wagons to come to the store. I remember one of the horses was called “Queeny.” Next door , was a beautiful stone house, where Mrs. Mollet lived with her fluffy, grey cat. A tall limestone wall joined the back of both of our yards. On her side was a latticework door going into what I called “The Secret Garden.” How I used to fantasize it as a magical, storybook place. I could visualize beautiful, ever-blooming flowers, colourful butterflies, birds singing and a wonderful big swing, just waiting for me to spend hours swinging and dreaming.
Although time passed and we moved away, I never forgot “The Secret Garden.” In fact, in the 1960s, I did a large oil painting of the imaginary garden full of magnificent translucently coloured flowers, hidden behind the stone wall. It still remained a mystery for me. Ironically, in 1987, I got an amazing phone call from Janet Grey who lived at 224 King Street East. Her friends, the Carmichaels, lived across the road, where Mrs. Mollet had lived. I couldn’t believe it! She commissioned me to do a painting of their garden for a surprise gift and she arranged for me to do it the very next day. All night, I dreamed about my fairytale image. I was finally going to see “The Secret Garden.”
It was very foggy when I arrived the next morning. Quickly, I ran into the back yard and opened the squeaky door into a gloomy, ugly, tangled mess of thorny weeds and deadly nightshade vines. Tears filled my eyes, as I closed the door on my childhood dreams. I returned to the real world and the job at hand. The front garden of the house was beautiful and it was a joy to paint it. A unique white squirrel came to visit. I quickly put him in the painting and left with a feeling of well-being.
This experience with “The Secret Garden” and life in general reminds me of two songs! As a child, I recall singing “Everything is Beautiful.” Then, one grows up and looks behind the door to the tune, “I Beg Your Pardon, I Never Promised You a Rose Garden”!
©Shirley Gibson-Langille 2020