I was cleaning the back of my office and heard someone come in the front door. I looked up and there stood one of my favorite people on the planet: Helen Bull. I had to fight tears of joy. It has been nearly 2 years since we visited last.
She didn't start out as one of my favorite people. One of my earliest memories were of her biting me after I bit her son, Johnny. I thought the woman was going to bite my thumb off! I also remember her laying in my grandmother's bed sick and knowing it had something to do with being the mother of 4 little boys. Someone told me she was having female trouble and I figured with a husband and 4 boys she probably had all kinds of female trouble being so outnumbered!
As a little girl I loved going to her house. Her boys had go carts, Mad magazines, and lived right across the alley from the Flamingo Hotel where we could go swimming. Once her boys had a pen where they hatched quail eggs. 100's as best I recall. I was mesmerized by the tiny birds. They felt like cotton balls with feet.
Another thing I loved were Helen's boys: Billy Mike, John Tracy, Tommy Ray and Curtis Dean. They were were freckled faced like me except the youngest Curtis Dean. My brother, Jody, always wanted to be a Bull Boy but I remember thinking I would fit in better since I had the freckles and was a real tom boy!
There were two more things that connected Helen and I. She could grown anything and taught me to love plants and birds. I'd never seen a hummingbird or heard a catbird until she pointed them out. Her samon colored oleanders, orange kalanchos, and paper-y flowered ice plant not to mention swedish ivy were my early favorites in her yard. She planted periwinkles for my mother -her best friend- who had a brown thumb. She promised they would thrive on neglect and she was right. Mom was proud of her purple flowers that greeted everyone by the front step.
After my girls were grown and out of the house Helen and I spent many Saturdays visiting nurseries, antique stores, and sharing the latest family and church stories over lunch. She would call me up or just show up and tell me where the purple Jacaranda trees were blooming or when the rain tree near the city lake was solid yellow with blossums. My first flower and butterfly pictures were taken in her backyard - a mexican love vine that had almost as many butterflies as bright orange/red blossoms.
I remember my last visit to Helen's house before she moved to Austin. As she and I toured her backyard she pointed out her cosmos and told me how she loved them. 7+ years later I finally planted my first cosmos. They are amazing! They can take the heat, the salt air, and the strong coastal breeze that charges through my yard on a daily basis. No matter what comes their way they keep blooming. They keep smiling! I never tend them that I don't think of her. She is just like my cosmos. No matter what charges through her life she keeps blooming, keeps smiling.
Helen takes full credit for teaching me to love gardening and birds. Thats true. I told her it was my refuge. She said that someday we'd have a good time gardening together in Heaven. We both said we were looking forward to that and we both meant it.
I wish everyone had a Helen Bull in their life.