I probably first fell in love with them in boyhood because I associated them with summer--with the time I was not in school. But, later, I also associated them with that home in Hiram, where I lived through my turbulent high school and college years, a place I loved. (The current owners love it, too: We sold it to them in 1966; they are still there.) Our lilies, by the way, were the old-fashioned orange, alongside-the-road variety--the kind that grows everywhere in northeastern Ohio.
The first few houses we lived in after we married had no daylilies. Still ... I saw them each summer alongside the road, and I guess I always felt they were sort of welcoming me into summer vacation. I had become a teacher, and although I loved my job, I loved the summers as well--the chance to go back to school myself, to read the stacks of books that had been accumulating, to travel to places I'd been reading about. So daylilies were sort of Nature's welcome to me: We're back again, they said. It's summer!
When we bought an old house in Hudson, Ohio, in 1980, there were no daylilies on the property. A major deficiency. But ... there are lots of country roads in the area ... lots of wild daylilies. So one day, we took a drive. In the trunk: a shovel.
They didn't bloom the first year (were they unsure they trusted us? were they resentful about being yanked from their birthplace?), but after that--they multiplied with leporine eagerness. By the time we sold that place ten years later, the orange lilies had made it their yard, thank you.
Now ... here's where a chain of coincidences commences. Attend:
|Saegertown bottle, with daylily.|
2. A long-time resident of Hudson was Dr. Charles F. McKinley (1913-2004), a Hiram College professor, a man whose English courses I'd taken. I had him for English 101 (freshman English) in the summer of 1962, right after I graduated from high school: My parents thought it would give me a head start on college. I still have the two books we used--an anthology (Interpreting Literature) and a usage manual (The Concise English Handbook). (I got a B, if you want to know.) Dr. McKinley and I had stayed in touch over the years. He had written letters of recommendation for me. He had attended public lectures I'd given, had bought books I'd published. We had dinner now and then. Gone to a movie. I loved him. He was born the same year as my father.
Well ... one time I saw Dr. McKinley and mentioned the Saegertown bottle, and he said immediately, "Root beer." He'd known the brand in his own youth. And, later, when we showed him the bottle, he confirmed his first guess-that-wasn't-a-guess. He recognized it.
4. July 2012. Forty years after I took Dr. McKinley's class. Joyce and I are looking for some old-fashioned alongside-the-road orange daylilies for the next old house in Hudson we bought in 1997. Older now, we are more timorous about raiding a culvert on a country road. So we try a rural florist, who sniffs and says that orange daylilies are "weeds." So I go to Facebook, post a note that I will trade some homemade bread for a cluster of orange daylilies. I get a single response.
5. That response is from David Anderson, a classmate back at Hiram College and, subsequently, a long-time adornment of their English faculty. He also took classes with Dr. McKinley, was later a colleague of Dr. McKinley, loved Dr. McKinley. His note says that he has some orange lilies he will let us have. David acquired them from the Hudson garden of ... Dr. McKinley.
6. Joyce drove to Hiram, traded bread for the lilies, but when she got home, I was off somewhere for a few hours. She looked for something to put a couple of blossoms in. Found the bottle. Transplanted the others alongside the driveway. When I got home and saw the arrangement inside, I told her what a great thing she'd done--putting Dr. McKinley's lilies in the bottle he'd identified for us twenty years earlier. And she said she'd completely forgotten that--she'd just picked something that looked "right."
|Dr. Charles F. McKinley|
Hiram College yearbook, 1966