this is the story of
Vanessa's grandparents CP and Cleo Reardon met at the Century Ballroom in Fife, WA. CP was a young sailor in the Navy, while Cleo had just graduated from Auburn High School and was working at a bakery in Downtown Auburn, picking beans in the local fields, and taking care of her mother who had chronic illness.
-A place to call home-
After renting an apartment in Tacoma during the war, and then a small home on Meridian Avenue in Edgewood - in 1947, the couple purchased a small home in Milton. Over the course of the next 60 years they would raise four children of their own plus others and transform the property into a beautiful and productive little homestead. It was the gathering place of the neighborhood all though the 50s and 60s and is the gathering place of the family still to this day.
-Growing gardens to grandkids-
Second only to Cleo, CP's greatest love was his vegetable garden. He grew a fair amount of flowers though too, even if he doesn't like to admit it today.
For cuts, he grew daffodils, tulips, callas, iris, lilacs, peony, roses, and of course, dahlias. His favorite dahlia he used to grow was a yellow pom pon. Throughout the decades as their gardens matured they only increased in wonder. CP would often cut a bouquet and bring his blooms into the house for Cleo - much to her delight.
-Some things never change -
Cleo passed away in July of 2011, but the gardening didn't stop and neither did CP's habit of bringing in flowers. In fact, both only grew. He ensured every day that there were fresh flowers in the house in her memory, and still does to this day.
Her favorite roses in her favorite vase often adorn her photo on the mantel to this day. Their children and grandchildren bring flowers from local dahlia farms or the grocery store to help CP and ease the financial strain of buying in blooms when there are none available in his gardens.
-A Grandfather's gift-
It was June 2017 on a hot afternoon when a then 90 year old Clarence was planting his tomatoes out with the help of his daughter and grand-daughter. Exhausted come the completion of the task, he admitted he wasn't sure how he'd tend them with his weak knees and sore back.
A young woman with a passion for gardening and no soil to call her own, Vanessa volunteered to take it over on his behalf. She grew his tomatoes, plus all the other veggies he wanted, and put in a few dahlias and a small sunflower patch to help meet his high floral demand.
Change was hard that first year. Giving up control of his beloved garden did not come easy for Clarence.
And while he rarely agreed with her new fangled methods, he enjoyed still having his usual home grown foods and lovely flowers. He began to realize that the young girl was dependable, passionate, and able. The bounty from the gardens that year far surpassed anything in recent memory.
-Germination of a legacy-
The next year, Vanessa grew more flowers.
Her and Clarence's bond grew exponentially.
In the winter she overwintered his geranium collection in the greenhouse, lovingly caring for and propagating hundreds of ivy and zonal geraniums just as he had done for decades prior.
In the Spring she harvested thousands of tulips.
In the Summer she produced lovely mixed bouquets and all the veggies a 91 year old man could eat. She placed tomato plants in containers on the patio for CP to tend on stable ground. She put him to work in his woodshop making stakes for all the dahlias. They sat and talked on the patio for endless afternoon hours, and the gardens thrived.
This was also the year Vanessa began selling some of the flowers she grew in her grandfather's garden. It wasn't much, but she was able to earn enough money to help pay for much needed roof repairs to Clarence's home.
That year, she made the best memories she has with her grandfather.
And she discovered a passion.