This I Believe, VT: Stephanie Montgomery

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(HOST) Today we hear from Stephanie Montgomery, whose beliefs embrace the gardener’s philosophy that new growth is possible on old wood. Here she is with her essay for This I Believe.

(MONTGOMERY) “My life as a gardener has taught me to believe in holding out for new growth on old wood. Late starts and last ditch efforts also figure prominently in our family history. I believe life challenges us to hang in there, resolute and patient until the story’s done.”

“My dad never did get his high school diploma. He dropped out of school in 1930 to support his mom, brother and sister. He went all the way from Boston to Philadelphia for a job as a window dresser. Dad lived at the Y and spent his evenings at the public library. Then came World War II. Then a family to raise. He was 70 when he applied to the University of Virginia as a freshman, hoping they would credit him life experience in place of that last year of high school. And bless their hearts, they did.”

“My mother taught in a one room school house on the Nebraska prairie every other year of her college career. Once she got her degree she headed to New York to study music at Julliard. She had heard it was a good school. When she showed up to register, tuition money in hand, she had never applied. They told her to go away. She just kept standing there. Flummoxed, they auditioned her. And Mama could sing. She was hoarse by the end of the day but she had a full scholarship and a living stipend.”

“After a decade of flawed relationships, I had the sense to notice when a good man showed up. I was 34 and he was 22. People said it wouldn’t last. Twenty good years later, he has kept me young and I have aged him nicely. Our babies came late too. My doctor said I was too old. Two pink bundles later, he grinned to be proved so wrong.”

“One of our daughters was hospitalized for depression when she was 15. Her school lost faith with her. Her old friends shunned her. Her new friends were scary. She looked and acted like a person bent on giving up. But she didn’t give up; she got better. She graduated from high school holding the hand of a fine young man.”

“These two kids, both artists, had already learned what it takes to come back from unmerited, harsh times. It takes grit and vinegar, that uphill courage that keeps you upright when you thought to fall.”

“In the early 50s, Dad did a stint as a traveling salesman. Family legend has it that he once sold the soaps from his sample case so he could bring home supper. I guess he trusted life would offer him another chance the next day. Our family’s history has convinced me that good fortune flows to those who work with purpose, those who dig in, stand fast, and then, but only then, have the sense to wait.”

“Last spring I took a long look at an old and weary lilac. Pruned to the white heart wood, the dry, grey bark had sprouted tender, green buds.”

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