Frieda’s Magical Garden

Orange Grove by Tom Brown“Orange Grove” painting by Tom Brown

My Real Memoir

At the ripe old age of three, I began spending my days in a magical place. As previously stated, Mom and Dad were both working, and I’d been dishonorably discharged from preschool for “conduct unbecoming a three-year-old.” So Mom had no choice but to place me with someone far more laissez-faire than my former drill-sergeant preschool teacher (“It’s nap time, mister, and when I say, ‘Sleep!’ you don’t ask, ‘What if I’m not sleepy?’ you say, ‘M’am, yes, M’am!’”)

Enter Frieda. Frieda and Alfred lived in a rambling California rancho amid what had once been a sprawling commercial orchard. But their ranch hands (sons), now strapping young men, had moved out. So Albert was gradually selling off the property to developers, who were in turn reseeding the landscape with tract homes. “Three Models to Choose From: Pick A, B, or C (with C you get Egg Roll)!” This included our little suburban bungalow at the other end of the block.

But the rancho still encompassed quite a few acres. It was dense with citrus and other kinds of trees. In addition, Frieda grew tomatoes, onions, pumpkins, squashes in every known color (including octarine), and flowers full of flying critters who’d inspect me for nectar if I held still, which I seldom did.

Frieda, who I considered my Daymom, raised ducks, chickens, geese, rabbits, parakeets–anything that moved. Cats wandered where they chose, under the house, on the roof, in the trees, serving as volunteer ranch hands (or, rather, ranch paws), living off of the all-the-vermin-you-can-eat buffet. And so did I. Although I don’t recall trying mouse or rat. But I did carry a salt shaker in my pocket to sprinkle on fresh-picked tomatoes. Oranges? Nice. Lemons? Frieda’s lemonade was the best! I quickly learned to climb, and would lie in the branches of fig trees for hours, munching their sweet little seeds and making up stories about Frieda’s Magical Garden.

My earliest friends were the trees and animals. I loved them, and they loved me back. Well, most of them did. There was one particular goose named Queenie who took her name a bit too seriously. She’d peck me mercilessly any time I failed to show proper respect as one of her subjects. Frieda taught me to chant, “Pretty goose, pretty goose,” until Queenie finally harumphed and waddled away.

There was one particular tree, a rare kind of mango, that loved me best. Its soft, pulpy fruit tasted and smelled like heaven. Even after I fell from its branches, knocking the wind out, certain I’d die, I forgave it. Frieda rubbed the life back into to my chest, and the next day I was up in its branches, daydreaming. Interestingly, two decades later the memory of that unique fruit would change my life forever.

More on Frieda’s Magical Garden next week.

To read the next My Real Memoir post, click here.

About mitchteemley

Writer, Filmmaker, Humorist, Thinker-about-stuffer
This entry was posted in Humor, Memoir and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

39 Responses to Frieda’s Magical Garden

  1. tidalscribe says:

    I was a tomboy and fell out of a tree in our local woods and winded myself. I also thought I was going to die and so did my friends! Did you keep in touch with Frieda?

    Liked by 2 people

    • mitchteemley says:

      Sadly, no. We moved away when I was seven. My aunt and uncle lived near them, and I did walk over, say hello, and reminisce with her once when I was older (Alfred had passed away by then). She was getting on, but it was a sweet moment.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Octarine? You’re a Pratchett fan?

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Nancy Ruegg says:

    I never thought of trees as friends, but as you resurrected some old memories with your story, Mitch, I did have a few arborous friends during childhood: 1) the big boxelder with a wide-spread, 3-way branching–a perfect reading spot, 2) the weeping willow that provided shelter and shade from the summer sun–and 3) the huge climbing tree down the street at Kenny’s house. The branches were perfectly spaced so we could clamber (relatively safely) to great heights. To us ten-year olds it seemed on par with the Empire State Building. I know the boxelder and willow are gone; no doubt the climbing tree is as well. It had to be old back then; now it would be ancient!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Frieda’s magical garden sounds delightful!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. ljochim says:

    Seriously the most precious story. I can’t wait for next week. You described all the characters in Frieda’s yard perfectly. Preciously told through the eyes of a three year old. Lisa

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Poor three-year-old Mitch! Had those grownups never heard of the five things you can’t make a child do? One is definitely go to sleep. (I can’t even make ME go to sleep sometimes.🙄) Glad you weren’t forced to stay in that situation.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. joyroses13 says:

    Awh! Enjoying this!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. alison41 says:

    Delightful! all kids should have that kind of daycare

    Liked by 3 people

  9. Heidi Viars says:

    I love what your stories do to my heart, Mitch … your voice quietly whispers as I read and my own emotions and memories flood and speak loudly. THANK YOU for being a wonderful steward of this gift of story-telling! You blessed my soul today… wanting to head out and hug my “friends” 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Pingback: Cute? Don’t Let the Picture Fool You! | Mitch Teemley

  11. What a blessing that dishonorable discharge from preschool was in giving you the best childhood experience imaginable. We had a very small yard when I was a little girl, but there was a small apple orchard directly behind our property. The owner let the neighborhood kids climb his trees. Many happy adventures happened in that orchard. Thanks for writing this lovely story and conjuring up a memory of my own.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. This post led me to read your 3 part series on CS Lewis and your spiritual journey. I found a lot to identify with and will be reading the CS Lewis books you referenced. Also love this post as you describe so well the magic of Frieda’s garden.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. revruss1220 says:

    What a wonderful, vivid memory. Frieda’s Garden was a magical place indeed.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Jennie says:

    Thank you for telling us about Freida. I knew she would be just the person to understand boys. Your preschool years were outdoors, climbing trees, and in Freida’s magical garden. I wish every preschooler could have that experience.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. While my preschool teacher was not like a drill-sergeant, she was explicitly (and quite smugly) confident that adults knew when kids were sleepy before the kids themselves noticed.  Thus began my life-long distrust of authority figures.  But I honestly can’t remember whether I dozed off or just spent the obligatory nap time fidgeting. 🙄

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Pingback: The Attack of the Giant Spider and Other Tales from My Childhood | Mitch Teemley

  17. I thoroughly enjoy reading your childhood stories.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. annieasksyou says:

    Hi, Mitch–

    I stopped by to welcome you to annieasksyou and to thank you for your support. But I immediately became caught up in Frieda’s Garden and your other flights of imagination. So now I’m signed on here as well. Looking forward to further Mitch insights.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. jorjagrael says:

    I want octarine squash!!

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Pingback: Expressing My True Self | Mitch Teemley

  21. I’ve just “met” John Speirs of Gracie Press, who sounds like an adult version of you as a little kid. He’s written a couple of “modestly illustrated” stories about, um, his delightful chicken friends. Soon my 4-year-old granddaughter will be able to appreciate them.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Pingback: When Your World Changes | Mitch Teemley

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