The Journal thanks Edgar and Joy Gaddis for sharing this great piece written by their Granddaughter.
If you travel north (North Louisiana that is) to a place where the population is just all y’all and your neighbors, where the store clerks know you as soon as you give your granddaddy’s name, and every building holds a bit of your family’s history, then you’ve arrived.
As you wind around the faded blacktop road you can almost hear the forty year echo of grandaddy Papa Edgar’s voice booming across those high school stadium speakers announcing Friday night football games. Mama Joy waits in her living room across the street, where she’s been able to hear Papa Edgar’s play-by-play since the days her sons and daughters were on that field.
From the football field, if you look into the treeline, down past the goal, where the blacktop cracks into long gravel-pine driveways, where the streets converge into one dead end, and the woods begin, you just might see the gateway to wonderland. It’s only visible for a little while, and you have to be truly looking or truly fortunate to find it.
You’ll know you’re one of the lucky ones if, as you walk into those unassuming woods, piney, and filled with brambly undergrowth, you instead stumble into an otherworldly land, with white flags waving welcome. Your skin tingles as you step forward and shrink.
The closer you come, the smaller you become. Then a pathway appears.
Walking down that sun-dappled pathway becomes a dance, frolicking from flower to flower before finally stopping for a photograph. You have to assure yourself that this wonderland is real. From your now close-up vantage point you identify the lilies towering above you. They take a bow. You smile and wave, navigating your way backward, increasing in size, going back to reality, and returning to the well-worn asphalt road you’d left behind.
While you feel grateful to have found this treasure in the trees, the real treasure hides in the story. If you knock on Mama Joy’s door and happen to catch her at her leisure, over a cup of coffee she will share the real story behind that woodsy wonderland.
“Well, I guess it would have been Elvie,” she says, talking about her cousin who lived at the end of the street. “There was no one to take the Easter lilies home you know, on Easter Sundays, after church.” She goes on to describe the lily-decorated church and the orphaned flowers that resulted. “She’d just take them home and plant them.” Mama Joy gestures toward the woods as she describes cousin Elvie’s rescue efforts, planted out back by the pine trees, year after year.
If you travel north to a place where the blossoms shoot up on stalks taller than people, where bold pops of white fight through the untamed woods in which they
do not belong, you may just find it. It’s a place where Easter’s blooms do not die. Instead the gardener claims, saves, and plants them to grow in a whole new way. You will know that woodsy wonderland when you see it; the population is made of flowers given in memory of all y’all and your neighbors, where the every blossom holds a bit of your family’s history. When you see the lilies through the trees, then you’ve arrived.
Mary Ellen Courville writes “I am currently a middle school English teacher at The Dunham School in Baton Rouge. Joy and Edgar Gaddis are my grandparents.
I would be glad to share the story and the pictures with your publication. I would appreciate it if you could please give photo credits to my daughter Grace Courville.”