The Spark of Passion

My life began in a five-story apartment building in the Bronx.  It was the only (in my recollection) building in that area with a full garden.  The building itself was about ¾ of a city block long and as you entered the main entrance via what we affectionately knew as “the stoop” you came upon a garden area surrounding the entrances of the different sides of the building.  There were boxwoods flanking the garden area on each side which is known as “runway” planting and inside those areas were trees, some larger than others.  Facing you as you entered up the main stairs was a flagpole displaying the American flag every day (took down every evening) and accompanying that area was a pine tree about 2 stories high.  At Christmas time, every child in the building would bring one toy for the Superintendent to hang from the tree – so it was decorated with all our toys.  No one stole the toys.  We just all got to look out our windows at it and admire the beauty.

A few times a year, the porter of the building would do the maintenance on the garden.  The porter, a quiet family man named Phil Holmes who lived in the back part of the building, would come to the garden area with all his tools and begin to trim the hedges uniformly so that everything was clean and neat.  I would sit on the stoop for hours watching him do this work.  I remember him talking to me and showing me how he would cut the hedges with the clippers (which were manual clippers – not electric).  He took such pride in it.  I remember him telling me, this is a wonderful thing, having a garden in the middle of this city.  We are so fortunate to have this to enjoy.  It must be kept nice for everyone.  It was as if he did not mind the work at all.  Rather, he relished the opportunity to be the caretaker of such a “treasure” amid the concrete jungle. 

From those early days forward, I yearned for my own yard.  To tend to the plants and make everything beautiful so that everyone who saw it could enjoy it as much as I did.  I am in the midst of that work now.  As I trim my hedges, I wanted to remember that ever so patient man who worked for my building tending the garden.  He is the one who taught me to love gardening.  Thank you Phil Holmes!


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  1. Rae on May 17, 2020 at 5:36 pm

    It really was a great place to grow up. I see my apartment windows in this pic. From my parents window, I could see your windows. Thanks for the memories.

  2. Brian F Ryan on May 17, 2020 at 6:12 pm

    Very nice reminiscence, and tribute to Mr Holmes.