Each year when the roadside wild daylilies bloom I think of Wilton. She was an “old woman” who lived in the community – just down the road from my grandmother’s house – in what all the family referred to as “The Little House.” Wilton and her husband George were old, poor, eccentric and seemed not to have a care in the world. Of course, this was from the perspective of a child, so their troubles could have been many and when you are 7 years old anyone past 30 seemed ancient. But I believe they were poor, and Wilton – if not George – was “different.”
|For sentimental reasons, I have dug a few of the wild daylilies from along the roadside and planted them in my garden.|
She had “spells,” as they called it back then, meaning she would go “off” ever so often and require treatment in a mental hospital. These bouts occurred three or four times a year and after a 2-week stay, Wilton would return home and resume her life as usual. During her absences, ladies in the surrounding community would take meals to George. He was a quiet, humble man. Tall, slim and usually dressed in dark clothing, he reminded me of Abe Lincoln. His sole occupation, as far as I know, was repairing telephones. I seem to recall that he also worked on clocks as well.
Wilton was an industrious soul, visiting neighbors to help them prepare the summer bounty for canning. I recall that she helped my grandmother pick apples from the orchard and would sit on the porch and peel the bucketsful of them for hours on end, preparing them for drying in the sun. She visited the sick, cleaned houses and was generally known as a Good Samaritan type, always ready to help a neighbor in need.
|Orange daylilies growing alongside the herb Lemon Balm|
Wilton made crepe paper flowers, the kind that once were placed on graves in the cemetery on “Decoration Day.” I can recall visiting her and the entire front room would be filled with these simple paper flowers. She would lovingly show you each arrangement she had crafted. She would sell these paper flowers to anyone who wanted to purchase them, no doubt to earn much-needed cash.
Another project I recall she was involved with was selling candy, which she would mail order. All the cousins gathered at my grandmother's house were lucky if we could charm our parents out of a nickle or dime and run to Wilton's for our candy bar.
An affectionate woman, she always wanted to hug and kiss all children each time she saw them. “Come here, honey, and give Wilton some sugar,” she would loudly exclaim each time she saw me. She had a boisterous laugh and seemed always happy.
But the reason the wild orange daylilies remind me of Wilton is that she loved them so! She would stroll up and down the roadway in the cool of the late afternoon, gathering armloads of these wildflowers. She was happy as a lark in experiencing such a simple pleasure, it seemed, and singing in a loud voice all the while. Her booming voice would echo all around the surrounding area. Laden with her treasures, she returned home to place them lovingly in canning jars to decorate each room of her house, as well as the front porch.
|Daylilies growing with reckless abandon along the roadways|
She dearly loved flowers and she grew beautiful ones all around her house. But once -- when one of her spells was coming on -- she walked into her front yard one night and pulled up by their roots all the beautiful flowers she had so tenderly nurtured and tended.Wilton also was an entertainer of sorts. She would tell stories to us children and I recall only one. When she was admonishing us that we always needed to do well in school, she recounted that she had not been a good student but now wished she had been. The story was this: She had not prepared her assignments for class one day and as punishment, the teacher made her stand up in front of the class and recite a poem. She said this was what she said:
“The sun rises in the east and sets in the west,
I thank you Mr. Looney I’ve done my best.
Telling this amused her, and I can hear to this day her roaring laughter.
I am not sure what happened to her in her later years. I moved away and didn't think of her for many years. But once I returned to live in the area of my childhood I rediscovered the daylilies.
Wilton had two daughters who lived some distance away. So maybe she moved to be near them in her declining years. I hope she had many flowers to enjoyThe Little House still stands and the orange daylilies still grow abundantly along the roadside all these years later. I pass that house each day and once a year, in the late spring when the daylilies bloom, I think of Wilton.