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Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Before You Go: Fiona’s Flowers

CRL columnist John Gray's latest short story on the power of perennials.

Fiona Featherstone lived in a house that was well-known by all. It sat high atop a hill, like a bird on a branch, perched where everyone could see it. What drew your attention was not the architecture, but the perennial flowers that sprang up around it, from the first signs of spring to the last leaves of fall. The constant splash of colors was magnificent. 

Fiona married young—he was a kind soul named Montgomery—and together they lived a modest life. They were not blessed by children, but they were truly happy. Fiona played her piano in the living room, while Montgomery tended to his prized flowers. She was convinced the dulcet tones of Brahms helped them grow.

When Montgomery passed away, everyone assumed Fiona would sell the place, but she hung on for another 18 years, making time to water her husband’s beloved garden. 

When she left to join Montgomery in heaven, Fiona’s estate listed the house at a rock-bottom price, which drew hundreds of prospective buyers. Suitors for the property soon learned that there was a catch for anyone eager to buy it. 

The new owners had to sign a binding agreement with three stipulations.

They had to stay in the home for at least five years. They must agree to water the flowers themselves twice a day. And whoever bought the home had to be a young couple in love. A violation of any of the terms would put the buyer in breach of contract.

Abby and Denny Dershowitz were young professionals who adored one another and were searching for a place to sink roots and grow a life together. When they saw the price of the house on the hill, they offered 10 percent over asking, hoping to seal the deal. To their surprise and chagrin, other buyers bid much higher—some significantly above what the late Fiona had in mind.  

They were shocked when the realtor, who was a dear friend of the previous owner, accepted their bid, on the condition they only pay the asking price. To everyone involved, it made no sense, but those were the late Fiona’s wishes.

Abby and Denny loved the home and made certain to water the flowers as promised. A year after moving in, a child was born, and then a second two years after that. The babies grew alongside Montgomery’s peonies, roses and dahlias. 

Five years after they closed on the house, to the day, there was a knock at the door. It was the realtor holding a bottle of Dom Perignon and a letter. Abby and Denny opened the Champagne, curled up in front of the fireplace, and read the words of Fiona Featherstone.  

Dear Friends, 

I hope you are enjoying this home as much as my husband and I did. Thank you for taking care of the flowers. I know my request that you personally water them twice a day must seem strange, but let me explain why. 

While my husband Montgomery was seen doting over the flowers, he actually planted them for me, each bud serving a purpose.

The purple phlox arrives in May, in tribute to Mother’s Day and my late mother, whom I adored. 

The pink coneflowers bloom in July, attracting one of my favorites: butterflies. 

The lavender hyssop appears late summer, inviting graceful hummingbirds to the yard.

And last, the aster that blossom in October are a favorite of bees, who provide us with the sweet honey I put in my afternoon tea.

Perennials remind us that beauty is fleeting, winter is inevitable, but hope springs eternal to those patient enough to wait.

God Bless,
Fiona

John Gray
John Gray
John Gray is an Emmy-winning journalist and writer. In addition to his 32 years of television experience, John is the author of three children's books and two novels. He is married with three children. He and his lovely wife Courtney have five dogs, three of them are rescues with special needs. They make their quiet home in Rensselaer County.

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