I grew up across the street from a heavily wooded lot. We called it "the woods." Next door was a big empty field and down the road was the boat lot, where all the houses in the neighborhood (that didn't have lakeshore of their own) had a small plot of property on a lagoon to build a dock for lake access. We went fishing at the boat lot, played baseball in the field, and spent endless hours in the woods, building forts and exploring.
I was proudly tromping out of the woods clutching my perfect flower when I heard a voice from above. It was my friend's mom looking out her second story kitchen window, who happened to see me and called down "You shouldn't be picking Mrs. H's flowers!" I stopped in my tracks. The tulips were growing at the edge of the woods...right behind Mr. & Mrs. H's house. Was that actually her garden? I took off running! I considered dropping the flower (and proof of any wrong-doing) along the way but it was too perfect. Too beautiful. Its scent was intoxicating. It was my apple.
I couldn't tell her I found it in the woods because then she'd figure out it came from Mrs. H's garden. I fumbled for an answer. Where could I pick flowers that didn't belong to anyone if not the woods? "The field," I told her and left the room.
I'd never in my life seen a tulip in the field, and neither had my mom, but she believed me nonetheless. Apparently, she just figured it came from an old abandoned garden out there. No one would miss it. She stuck it in a vase and put it on the windowsill.
Now Mrs. H and her husband were one of the few elderly couples in our neighborhood. All of the older couples were very nice to us kids and this time was no exception. As I stared at my feet, she patiently listened to my apology, then sweetly told me she was happy to know someone else appreciated her garden, and sent me home smiling, with the treasured tulip nestled against my chest.
As the years went by, I often wondered about that secret garden at the edge of the woods. It turned out I never saw her lovely patch of red tulips again. They only bloom for a few days, so I had to be in just the right place at the right time to find them that first time. It made me wonder why anyone would plant a garden in the very back corner of their yard where no one could see it.
It made me so happy, just sitting in my living room with a cup of tea, admiring the colorful blooms bobbing in the breeze outside my window. And now I finally understand. Mrs. H's house had the garage in front, and the few small windows that faced the front yard looked out on the driveway, not the lawn. The back of her house had a walkout basement, which meant anything she could see from her living room window upstairs had to be way back in the yard...at the edge of the woods. She had other garden beds in her yard. One in the front that she probably only saw when leaving her house, a few scattered around the back and side yards, but only that one bed farthest from the house had tulips. She really must have loved tulips.