Wednesday, November 5, 2008
I have told many stories here on my blog about growing up in Florida. They were about happy times and fond memories from my youth. There were many of them and I have more to share, however life for me as a child wasn’t always rosy. In fact there were just as many bad times as there were good. Growing up in a three bedroom house with five children, an alcoholic father and a bi-polar mother was often a scary environment for a boy like me.
Being quiet and shy, I kept my feelings to myself and only let them out when they had built up to a point where I could no longer contain my anger and pain. My sister would often joke about how I was a time bomb waiting to go off and how you didn’t want to be the one that drew the last straw. She would warn people to watch out for the “quiet one”. And it was true. I did hold too much anger inside but I had no way to let it out in such a close environment.
When I got a little older though and began to roam, I found a sanctuary. It was a little Garden in the middle of town. It was only about three miles away and as small children we were allowed to roam that far. It was only two miles down the river, across a bridge and then up a busy street. I would walk, ride my bike or sometimes run there just to escape. It was a one square block of heaven in the middle of our small town. The real name was the Ormond Memorial Art Museum and Gardens and it was a special place for me.
I loved it for many reasons. First off it was dedicated to men who had sacrificed for our country in World War II and I have always been very patriotic. Inside the art gallery was a list of the town’s men who had served in the military. My father and all my uncle’s names were listed there as well as the names of many of the men I knew as a child. That gave special meaning to that place.
Even though I enjoyed the art gallery, the gardens were my favorite place. In that one square block area, there was lush vegetation, waterfalls, foot paths, small fish and turtle ponds and secluded areas with quaint park benches. I would spend hours there catching fish, tadpoles, frogs, turtles and insects. The vegetation was so thick that it would drown out the noise from the nearby streets and it was the perfect place to hide from my troubles. I had some great times there.
But sometimes life would be so hard for me that I would just sit and think, and cry and pray. I would pray that God would take away the pain I felt inside. I would pray that God would stop the fighting that tore my family apart. I would pray for a way out of the hell that we sometimes went through. I would sit there for hours and wait for God to answer. I waited for that big sign and thunder in the air and for something big and earth shattering to happen to make things better for me. But it never happened. I just sat alone in the garden and talked to God. All I heard was quiet. Peace and quiet. So quiet that I all I could hear was the wind through the trees, the sound of the waterfall and my own self breathing.
Even though I felt God hadn’t answered my prayers I would leave that little Garden feeling calmer, better about myself and somewhat relieved. Just talking with Him took some of the pressure off of me. I would give myself a pep talk and find positive things to think about and somehow the world was better for a while. And every time things got bad at home, I would again return to the Garden and tell God my troubles. It was my one place to escape from life’s troubles.
Last night I felt the need to talk with my sister so I called her. She still lives in that same little town (which is not so small anymore) and only a mile from my garden. During the conversation, she brought up another garden that was in town called Parrots Paradise. It was a fascination to us when we were growing up because it had flashy parrot shows and monkeys but there was a charge to get in so we seldom were able to go inside. That little quarter admission price was often out of our reach. Parrots Paradise is now gone and all that remains are some ruins and some escaped monkeys but I still remember how it was.
I also told her about how I loved to go to the Memorial Gardens and she confessed how she enjoyed going there too. Although she didn’t go into details I felt she went there for escape as well. The Gardens are still there and free by the way to anyone who wants to visit them. They are much the same as they were when I was a child and I still enjoy going there when I visit my sister. For me it will always be a special place. And now that I am older, I realize that God was answering me. He was giving me the peace that I needed to survive. To this day I have a picture in my mind of those Gardens and I can still feel and hear the wind, and know the peace that I found there. Everyone needs a special Garden in their life.
Have a Blessed day,