Day two of a visit to Chuck-town with Amber/Am-beer/Am-brrrr. . .
After a bit of discussion we decided to hit another garden, which she promised would be even better than the first. Of course she pretended not to hear when I asked why she didn’t take me there first, instead skipping forward to fetch the car.
Magnolia Plantation also had an entrance fee, but much cheaper and, if the brochure was any indication, a lot more stuff to see and do.
To my surprise–such a big city shouldn’t have been this inbred–Amber knew this ticket-taker as well, but I managed to sneak away while the females indulged in some good-natured joshin’. I headed off in the best direction the map could point out while reading the historical portion of the brochures. It contained basically the same kind of bullshit as the other place, though not to the same extent; more flowery prose, though. It had been open to the public since the 1870s, but parts were so much older they were considered the oldest unrestored gardens in America. Had the other place made the same claim? Probably.
“Good thing this family didn’t sign any documents and have the place burned down by Yankees, huh?”
“True,” she chuckled, then gasped. “How’d you know I was right behind you?”
“There are so many examples I can give you,” I sighed. “That we’re telepathically connected, for instance. . .”
“By the heart and not the mind? I’d buy that.”
Grinning at that one, I kept going. “The fact you have a special brand of soap that you use exclusively and my nose has memorized.”
“Oooh, I love that one just as much! What else?”
“There’s this incredibly long yet incredibly thin shadow. . .”
She glanced at the ground, then grimaced. “Had to be that one! Damn!”
“Or all of the above. . .”
Still reading the brochures, I ran down the list of flowers I’d heard of but couldn’t identify. “Camellias, daffodils, azaleas. . .”
“I’ll point them out to you,” she promised.
“Is there no end to your intellect?”
She was about to say there wasn’t, but left it alone instead, since there was nothing she could add to such a truthful admission. So I went back to the paperwork in my hand. “‘The gardens at Magnolia Plantation are of such beauty and variety that they have brought tourists from around the world to view them, with the climax of incredible beauty building towards the spring bloom.’ Go tell them how much you hate them using the word ‘climax’ when you can’t enjoy it. I’ll wait.”
“We’ll do that on the way out,” she promised.
“Let’s start slow,” I decided, pointing to the train, which really wasn’t, being pretty much a tractor pulling open trailers with benches, not even as fancy as the ones at Universal Studios. But the ride was smooth and I got a lot of good photos, so I was happy. She helped by pointing out interesting shots.
After that she led me in a certain direction–shoving shoulder to shoulder a more accurate description–till we were at the petting zoo. “This should make you happy. I don’t want you to stop till you’ve maxed out your digital card!”
I didn’t tell her I had extras in the bag, simply shot and shot and shot, making sure to keep the camera on telephoto so none of the kids shrieking around her would come out, just her and whatever animal she was playing with at the time. It was plain to see she was having fun, which made me happy, and the photos I got of her being happy made me all the happier.
Sometime later, simply walking around the grounds, we came across a tour group. Instead of joining them, we sat at a bench close enough to hear without drawing attention.
“The Romantic Garden movement has its roots in the industrial revolution in Europe, and is tied directly to the empowerment of the common man. When he went to work in the factories, he wanted to design gardens that would help him forget the dreary life offered during the workday.”
“Makes sense,” I yawned, though softly.
“I like to say that the definition of a romantic is an ‘Extravagant Liar.’ This is really what a romantic garden is designed to do, to fool you into forgetting the normalcy of everyday life. Romantic Gardens are designed to take the viewer to a place where emotion takes precedent over reason. Surprise awaits around every corner. Form, balance and symmetry are thrown to the wind. These gardens are designed to appeal directly to the soul.”
When we got up and continued to meander, time went away. Neither of us knew how long we wandered the gardens; my only time signatures were that my legs were getting tired and my stomach no longer buzzed. At that moment I saw a gorgeous white bridge over one of the lakes, and I told her to go onto it while I photo’ed her. “Act like you’re waiting for your lover, smiling at the sky, picking at a flower, those kinds of things.”
Trying not to grin, she raced over and went into what passed for actress mode from her, though simply hoping she did well enough to be convincing in the photos.
“C’mon, this is your only chance to act girly.”
She took that to heart and started overdoing it.
A few minutes later I joined her, telling her it was time to go back to the real world for a spell. That was actually what I said, “For a spell.” It took her a while to stop laughing, so she was easy to lead as I moved us back toward the entrance/exit.
Once I saw she had finally mentally returned and could give me some attention, I mentioned, “That’s what the tour guide meant about the gardens being an extravagant liar. While we were inside them, the real world went away.”
“And we could pretend we didn’t have a care in the world. Yeah, that makes sense.” She sighed. “How good would it feel to live like that all the time?”
Grin. “Boring. You need the Bad to remind you how Good is supposed to feel.”
That night, strolling through downtown after dinner, I asked her how Charleston was named, but she didn’t know. She did say that Columbia had been named by Christopher Columbus, which was no big reach, but, wanting to show off her intellectual chops, she added, “You can argue that Columbus made the most important discovery in history.”
Snort. “YOU can argue that. The only thing Columbus ever discovered was that he was lost!”