Niagara Gazette

July 6, 2013

LETTERS FROM THE ISLAND: Chance encounter solves roadside dilemma

By Doug and Polly Smith
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — Dear Mainland Gardeners — Many graduation observances include a poem about relationships titled “The House by the Side of the Road.” Ours came close. Here’s what happened.

Sunday we motored to Monroe County for Sierra’s high school graduation party. A generation ago her Mom, Kelly, along with sister Patti, lived across our street. Kelly, Patti and our Costly Daughter were triple-threat mischief-makers, now with robust families of their own. The parents, our contemporaries, are gone now.

The food was terrific, the music tolerable, the celebrants joyously loud, coming and going from simultaneous celebrations nearby. At the far end of the parking lot we thought we saw three kids grabbing a smoke, didn’t check the brand. That was as wild as it got.

“Of all the people here,” Kelly said, “you’re the only part of our past.” Can’t believe we used to yell at those kids. (Yes we can.) “It didn’t seem like it then,” we agreed, “but those were good times.” Hugs and tears.

We headed home by the road hardly traveled at all, the Lake Ontario Parkway, a/k/a the Boondoggle Bypass, from Rochester almost to Barker. We’ve seen more traffic at misers’ funerals. Part of it has shed its pavement, leaving one of those funhouse surfaces that you must be this tall to ride.

Dentures throbbing, we exited onto Route 18 and passed a farmhouse with a hand-written sign offering “Hostas, $3.50, 3 for $10, please don’t forget to pay,” moistly planted in sandwich bags.

Doug wouldn’t know a hosta from Bob Costa but Polly had been hunting them since June, once declining to pay $8 for a factory second. “Who wants to pay $8 for a half hosta,” she had asked.

Now, in hosta heaven, we rued slipping our last $10 to a graduate in Greece. All we had was $20s and a few singles. Except for a stone, the can was barren.

Roadside honor boxes speak much about entrepreneurial America, now an endangered species. As we pondered solutions while uploading three hostas another woman drove up.

“Awwww,” she wailed, “Are all the hostas gone? I saw them before and decided to stop on the way home, and now they’re all gone.” Doug sprang into action: “Wanna buy one?” Between us we had enough green and that made everybody happy, including our absent hosta hosts.

As we all remarked on our good fortune, strangers satisfying mutual needs far from home, she said, “I hardly ever get out this way,” adding, “I’m from Grand Island.”

So now we had driven 100 miles to enter the hosta business with a woman from around the corner. We paused, then, for popcorn at Bye’s near Olcott and crossed the South Bridge precisely at sunset, a pretty good day, including the pause at the hostas by the side of the road.

Come visit. Bring fertilizer.

Polly and Doug E-mail