Growing up, I spent part of every summer with my grandparents, where I could be as idle or as busy as I wanted. They believed in plenty of empty time — for reading, dreaming, exploring. My grandmother loved art and art supplies. She and I could go “nuts” just smelling a new box of crayons. Their house was filled with stuff we gathered and with our creations. My grandfather shared my other passion, mysteries. He and I created stories around the people we saw in restaurants. Our fellow diners became dangerous criminals and long-lost heiresses.
Since my grandparents retired from teaching, every summer they go someplace new. They do research and find somewhere that isn’t touristy. They rent a cottage or apartment for the whole summer, and soak up everything they can. And now that I am a teacher, with my summers off, single, I join them. We savor it all — and each other.
One morning, Grandpa and I set out to discover our new spot, the Isle of Roses. We hoped we’d find our new mystery. We found it on the way to the cafe. It was a sort of street, but not for vehicles. Perhaps, an alley — a series of broad steps with pink and blue walls on each side, partially zigzagged in white. Many pots lined the steps and some were mounted high above, too high to water easily. The pots provided most of the color; the plants were sparse. One desperate rose with a single bloom — on the Isle of Roses. The scene didn’t make sense.
We decided this place had once been lovely, created for the child who lived above the alley. Her strange illness required her to stay indoors. Her wealthy family provided a colorful landscape with vibrant flowers spilling from window boxes and climbing trellises. Now an old lady, she was a kind of ancient Rapunzel.
We believed in her so that we decided Grandma and I would recreate the garden and paint a mural of flowers, shrubs, and birds. So we launched our summer!