Grief and a Garden Goose

2018 has been full of changes.  In addition to the deaths of some dear friends and family, I have had to endure some challenging transitions.  As a therapist, I am well acquainted with theories about grief and am practiced in how to offer support, but nowhere is it written you need a cement garden goose.  In May, my mother-in-law Pearl moved out of the house she built with her husband in 1957 and into an assisted living facility.  It was a chilly day early in the morning and I was sent with a list of things my husband wanted me to buy from the estate sale.  I waited in line with thirty or more antique dealers and collectors (she had a lovely doll collection and an array of antique furniture and housewares) and I could see this cement garden goose standing amongst some chairs lined up on the driveway.  Boy was I surprised to find myself getting worried that someone might buy this goose before I could claim it.  Nowhere on the list was “one garden goose.”

When I met my husband in 1991 and started visiting his parents for dinners and swimming; this cheerful goose named Petunia welcomed everyone at the front door. It was dutifully dressed by Pearl or her grandkids for each of the holidays. When we returned to Michigan after 12 years living in New Mexico, our daughter took over updating Petunia’s outfit.  I had no idea this lawn ornament found a place in my heart.  While not normally a part of my aesthetic I did not struggle with my need to have it, and it came home with me along with some dolls and a quilt.  It was great to see my daughter’s enthusiasm that it was coming to live with us.  I think Pearl was as surprised as I was that of all the items in the house Petunia was saved from the sale.

This means now I have a family tradition to uphold, and I am taking the responsibility pretty seriously.  Petunia’s wardrobe was a little worse for wear (Raggedy Ann’s handmade dress was torn and sun bleached and her country dress with straw hat couldn’t be saved) but Pinterest was a good source of inspiration.  I rejected a lot of the outfit designs that gave Petunia arms, dressed her like a turkey or put her in snorkeling gear- come on SHE IS A GOOSE.  But I loved the idea of a hula skirt for summer and she would of course need a halloween costume.  I also rejected the idea of painting her.  I liked that the grey cement melded with the tones of the weathered deck and the stone details at the front of the house; she looked right at home.

Dollar Tree was a wonderful place to find accessories to help me get started.  Since it was summer I knew they would have a lei for her hula costume and I was delighted to find mini patriotic hats for the 4th of July (I have no idea what people need mini hats for if they don’t have a goose of their own.) I fashioned a hula skirt from some sisal rope I encouraged to unravel in tassels.  I returned in September and found the sparkly witch hat and a toddler’s fairy skirt that fit petunia perfectly!

Amidst all of the giving up and letting go this little project helped tie my family together.  When everything seems quite serious and somewhat dark this silly cement goose reminds me not to take things too seriously and to smile.  Petunia says “welcome” at my home now and she does a good job too.

Pearl (2013) the original owner of Petunia the garden goose.

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