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Two Girls, Tulips and Rainbows

March 27th, 2012 at 10:00 am

Today’s Flyover People column as seen in The Emporia Gazette:

TWO GIRLS, TULIPS AND RAINBOWS

Sitting in the March sun feels pretty much like falling in love. The chill of winter is gone and that sweet warm sun makes my skin smile.

Birds, unseen, chirp in the trees around me. Cars drive past, a lone bicyclist coasts by.

It feels so good to sit on the porch again. When the temperature hits 70 degrees, I move outdoors for some writing and reading time.

Daffodils are spent, but grape hyacinths and the forsythia are in bloom. In front of the porch is a small circle of tulips, their blossoms lipstick red.

Taryn, a neighbor girl who has since moved away, sold us the tulip bulbs years ago during a school fundraiser.

So I think of Taryn each spring as tulip foliage pushes itself out of the brown earth. It grows fast, surely an inch a day. Then, stems with buds appear and the flowers open with the first red splash of the season.

For the past 15 years, as the seasons have changed, as the earth has orbited the sun again and again and again, I’ve spent time on this front porch. From here I’ve watched neighbors move in, neighbors move out.

During the same month that Dave and I purchased our home, the McCoys moved in next door and they promptly celebrated Taryn’s first birthday. Two years after that, Morgan was born. They were great neighbors, the kind of folks from whom you could borrow a piece of aluminum foil when baking, or a lawn edger when your grass crept over the sidewalk. John and Brenda watched our cats while we were on vacation, and we’d take care of their pets when they left town.

Because our driveways were adjacent, we had countless conversations. Many evenings we’d stand in the yard, catching up on family stories or hearing about the girls’ softball games.

On Taryn’s first day of kindergarten, she and Brenda stopped as they walked home from school, and I asked Taryn, “What did you learn today?” She said, “I learned to keep my hands to myself.”

Several years ago, Dave gave me a lighted hula hoop for my birthday. One night after dark, 9 year-old Morgan and I took turns with that hula hoop in our front yard. Dave’s photos captured flashes of blue, yellow, red and green swirling around us like lightning bugs in the night.

Morgan and the hula hoop.

One morning in 2005, Brenda rang the doorbell, and with a bit of panic in her voice said, “Please tell me that both of your cats are indoors.” They weren’t, and yes, that was our Bear lying in the street. I placed him in a cardboard box and carried him to the porch. Brenda and I sat on the steps, her arm around me, tears falling on Bear’s soft gray fur.

One spring evening after a thunderstorm, Morgan came to the door with her usual bright-eyed smile and said, “There’s a rainbow. I thought you’d like to see it.” Well, of course we did.

And that became a tradition after storms: a knock on the door followed by a neighborhood viewing of the rainbow.

In 2008, when Tyson eliminated their slaughter operations and dramatically cut their workforce, Dave and I became worried; both John and Brenda worked at Tyson. Brenda still had her job in the office, but John’s position was cut. After several anxious months, John found employment in Kansas City. We didn’t want them to move and they didn’t want to either.

“All of my life I’ve wanted to leave this town,” John said. “And now that I have to, I don’t want to go.”

The moving van came and went. Brenda and I correspond occasionally online. They are settled in the city and are happy there. But we miss them. We miss John and Brenda, and we miss those two girls with wavy brown hair who rode their bikes up and down the sidewalk, the girls who loved to laugh and tell stories, the girls who were never without a question.

The tulips are blooming now, and in the rainy days ahead, the sun will surely project a rainbow or two onto the sky. Dave and I have to discover rainbows on our own these days, but for a few shining moments, there was a sweet young girl who led us to them.

Copyright 2012 ~ Cheryl Unruh

Taryn connects.

One last photo before they left in 2008, Taryn, Morgan and Madison, the dog.

Morgan back for a visit in 2011.

columns, Kansans, nostalgia, seasons

  1. Brenda
    March 27th, 2012 at 10:26 | #1

    Cheryl,

    Thank you for all the fond memories of our time as your neighbor. We miss you lots everyday.

    Brenda

  2. March 27th, 2012 at 10:46 | #2

    So dear and sweet…

  3. March 27th, 2012 at 12:40 | #3

    great story. that’s pretty much the way we feel about our neighborhood too.

  4. Roger
    March 27th, 2012 at 15:54 | #4

    Another wonderful column, Cheryl.

  5. Kris
    March 27th, 2012 at 23:46 | #5

    I miss neighbors like that. I know even here in Topeka people still have them, but I don’t. People come and go and we don’t interact as friends. My friends who would be neighbors like that don’t live close to us. Things are just different in the city, I guess.

  6. Sherry McCoy
    March 28th, 2012 at 21:55 | #6

    Hi Cheryl,

    Thanks so much for writing this beautiful piece about my brother, John, my sister-in-law, Brenda, and my two nieces, Taryn and Morgan! I remember that sweet house they lived in, and the more neighborly way of life that Emporia offers as well. Although I grew up in Emporia, I have spent the better part of four decades now, here in the City of Angels. We occasionally do have some amazing rainbows here, and I am thankful for that! But generally speaking, none compare to those I remember from my childhood in Emporia. 🙂 Thanks again for your article. It was very moving, and a delight to read!

  7. March 28th, 2012 at 22:41 | #7

    Hi, Cheryl, This story is extremely well written; you are an excellent writer. I enjoyed your article so very much, just from the stance of enjoying your story about the McCoy Family, their lives, your relationship to them, and the beautifully descriptive way in which you told your story from describing the traditions that became between your two familes; the girls (my nieces) growing up and their being quite special; the strong friendship between them and you and your husband; and, truly, your story was poetic in every sense. I am John’s sister; we have the same father and different mothers, and I think John, Brenda, Taryn, and Morgan are just fine, fine people. Thank you for this gift you have given us: their family and us, the readers.
    Yours sincerely, blessings,
    Donna

  8. john mccoy
    April 2nd, 2012 at 10:57 | #8

    Cheryl,
    what beautiful article, we miss you two also. those are memories that will never be forgotten.

  9. john mccoy
    March 21st, 2013 at 20:49 | #9

    Cheryl, i read this from time to time and can’t get through it without tears in my eyes. what a beautiful story….

  10. March 21st, 2013 at 20:55 | #10

    Thanks, John! I’m happy that it means a lot to you. You guys were great neighbors and we miss you – miss being able to watch those girls grow up!! Cheryl