• One Minnesota Writer

When Generosity Seems to Backfire

This past weekend, we had a garage sale. Yes, you all saw photos on last Friday’s weekly writing prompts.

Garage sales can be fun. The stream of humans who come to graze over someone else’s cleared-out possessions can be highly entertaining. The guy who looked like Garth from Wayne’s World wanted toys for his grandkids who were coming to visit. Or, rather, his wife did. He more or less followed her around the garage. One couple who biked up the driveway seemed destined to take nothing away until the guy in this particular couple stopped to look at the Buddha Machine I was selling. He broke into the biggest grin as he clicked the button on the side to change its ambient sound loop. Turned out he was a digital sound artist and he bought the machine. There was a solo guy on a bike who stopped by between jobs (one at Byerly’s, one at the Minnesota State Fair grounds), who bought nothing but really wanted to talk to anyone who was around. There was an older woman who bought my son’s inflatable deer head because her son-in-law, who was turning 50, is a hunter. And there was a teacher who bought a stack of my daughter’s books and a stack of my son’s board games for her classroom.

It was a pretty good day.

But there was one older woman, who bought nothing, who ended up making the biggest impression on me. She practically burst into our garage, babbling about the poppies that just got done blooming in our garden. There were still a few big orange flowers, but mostly they were now naked seed heads that were not yet dry enough to spill their seed for next year’s flowers. She said how her friend was looking for poppies and we certainly had enough to spare, so she was calling her friend to tell her to come get some from us. She said, oh, you don’t even need to be here when my friend comes to take some.

I was a little surprised. But we do, indeed, have a lot of poppies. And gardens really are meant to be shared whenever possible. So, I said all right. Your friend can take some seed heads.

Of course, I forgot all about that. The woman’s friend did not come to our garage sale. But yesterday, upon returning from an appointment, I got to my driveway to find a big silver Lexus SUV in it. And there was a woman whom I’ve never met with scissors in her hands snipping the naked poppy stems. When I pulled into my own driveway, rolled down my window, and was about to inquire as to what she was doing, she came over and gushed as to how happy she was to have found someone who would share poppies. I was so surprised that it was all I could do to utter, oh, you must be the friend of that person who was at my garage sale.

Yes, she said, I am. I told her I wasn’t sure the seed heads were ready to take yet, that the poppies dry and self-seed, but I hoped that what she had already taken would work. She babbled some more and said, oh, I hope I left you enough so they seed for you again, since I took quite a bit.

Well, that was the understatement of the summer.

She left as soon as I pulled my car forward. I returned to my two giant patches of poppies to see what, exactly, she had done without asking me.

That wench took at least half of the poppy heads out of my garden. And she took them all from the front of their respective patches.

She is not a gardener. Clearly. She is, however, a greedy, rude, and thoughtless person. Of that I am certain.

And this morning I was still upset with this situation. In trying to do a kind thing, someone swooped in and took advantage of that kindness. This doesn’t happen often, so it’s not going to change my general approach to things. But it gave me pause, angered me, and made me sad for the poppies that now are not going to be here. I not only love their flowers (and have shared them with many), but I also love their naked post-bloom selves, when their stems get kinky and twisty, like something out of a Dr. Seuss story, as their seed heads dry and spill into the soil. There is a whole cycle that is to be respected.

In fact, here is what they looked like yesterday, before the poppy glutton arrived:


Most of those wild stems are now gone.

If you want something from my garden, ask. But have the decency to let me get it for you.

#gardening #generosity #greed

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