Maggie’s family did not have much money, but they did have love. That very love hangs thick in the air the day Maggie’s momma dies, leaving behind six children. While Maggie’s grandmother stands idly by, the children’s fate is decided by the state-run social services department. And Momma’s letter.
Years later, when Maggie begins to look into her family tree, what she finds is a bad case of root-rot. Could the secrets dug up be the very key to healing her broken family?
A tale of choice and chance, Wisteria Trees is also a story of survival and hope.
How can you get where you are going if you don't know where you've been? That very question was the beginning for what would turn out to be the story of a lifetime.
As a young child growing up in rural South Carolina, Maggie experiences many things that most kids only hear about - some things that money can’t buy and some things that you wouldn’t want to buy. Maggie’s family did not have much money, but love was the one thing they did have. You know, the unconditional kind that comes from a mother, a brother or a sister. Between Maggie, her mother and her four siblings, the house was full of love.
That very same love hangs thick in the air the day that Maggie’s momma dies, but is it enough to hold the family together through the ensuing circumstances and red tape. Maggie’s grandmother stands idly by, never once trying to help. First, foster homes and then an orphanage; at first glance they seem like eternal punishment but eventually they are seen for what they truly are, the answer to a mother’s prayer.
With the birth of Maggie’s second child, she begins to feel an unrelenting desire to learn about her heritage, especially her father's family whom she had never met. Sure, she knew her mother’s family but that had never really been much of a picnic. Wanting only to give her children a sense of family, something she had not had in a long, long while, Maggie begins to research her family tree. What she finds is a bad case of root-rot.
While Maggie has immediate success in locating information on her father’s family, the information directly connecting him to her mother is shrouded in secrecy. She tries several routes but it is clear that all roads lead back to her grandmother.
Maggie has the hope, though at times fading, that by recreating her family ties on paper, that she will be able to bring her family back together. Though they share the same name, she and her siblings had for the most part, each grown up as an only child. Now, just as she is about to accomplish this goal, one generation of secrets seems destined to keep them apart. Ultimately, it is these very secrets that bring them together.
One thing leads to another and, just as they all wonder at the newfound revelations, they each know that they have secrets of their own. It is only after these barriers come down that they realize their strengths and finally become a true family again.
A tale of choice and chance, Wisteria Trees and Honeybees is also a story of survival and hope. While it tells of one girl’s search for truth, it also shows a family struggling to find its way through inconceivable circumstances and events.
Are you who you are because of the past or are you who you are in spite of the past? Yes and yes.
Maggie’s first inclination had been to boycott the funeral but after thinking long and hard, had decided to attend. She was almost forty years old and yet she still found funerals to be not simply uncomfortable but almost unbearable. The mere thought of a funeral brought back the image of her mother laying there in their living room, in the blue silk-lined coffin, her powder blue gown with the two creases showing its newness, her swollen hands folded neatly upon her chest. They said she looked “at peace.” To Maggie, she just looked gone. Yes, Maggie tried to avoid funerals. In fact, she had decided to be late for her own, if it is up to her, that is.
Sure, she had made the decision to come but now that she was here, she wasn’t quite sure why. After all, she and her grandmother had never really had much of a relationship. Early on, it had been a bad relationship and in later years, no relationship. Nonetheless, here she was, having taken the afternoon off from work, without pay no less, to attend. Was it out of a sense of responsibility? She had almost always been one to do the right thing, even when she would have preferred not to. Was it merely to verify the obvious?
On second thought, yes, she was sure.
It was a dreary, miserable afternoon. The temperature was hot, up seven degrees from yesterday, and with the precipitation that kept coming and going, the humidity was almost stifling. The sun had been nice and bright earlier in the day. After two hours of the sun playing peek-a-boo with the clouds, now, at 3:00 in the afternoon, the weather had done a complete about-face, a one-eighty. But then, that’s what one could expect from the weather in North Carolina. Then too, the weather was entirely appropriate, considering the circumstances. It seemed that, more times than not, funeral services were held in less than optimum weather conditions.
Maggie, only halfway paying attention, sat next to her younger sister, Bethany. As the prescribed ritual played out before her, her mind was busy with its own business, quietly noticing, with great interest, a couple of things. In this room, one would expect a large group to gather to pay their last respects to an individual who had made an indelible impression on their lives. In contrast to the expected, here today, to offer condolences and consolation to loved ones left behind, there were less than a dozen people. Make that a baker’s dozen, if you include the three staff members. Maggie also noticed, as she circled the room with her peripheral vision, that there was only one flower; yes, one flower and no tears.
Now some might argue that to cry at a funeral or memorial service is inappropriate behavior and certainly, in some cultures, a lack of emotional display may be quite proper. Here, in the southern state of North Carolina, emotional outbursts are not only an ordinary part of life, whether at a birth, death or any event in between, but are expected to a certain degree. Still, it certainly seemed more than a little odd to Maggie that there were only thirteen people.
Certainly, it was no surprise that Maggie and Bethany did not cry. Bethany was there simply to lend a shoulder to Aunt Louise who had been Grandma’s caretaker, chief cook and bottle washer if you will, for the past few years.
After a few words by the preacher in the viewing room, the service continued with the ceremonial parade through town to the designated resting place. The site that had been chosen for Grandma’s interment was near the back of Rosemont Memorial Cemetery, one of the oldest cemeteries in Cumberland County. Grandma had most likely chosen it when she buried her youngest son, Jamie, just a few years earlier.
The last notes of “Amazing Grace” began to fade away, being drowned out by the ever-increasing rainfall. As the simple wooden coffin was slowly lowered into the dark, cold, damp ground, Maggie’s mind drifted back to a time, long, long ago. To the beginning…