I’ve posted about the setting of CLON-X in my Texas series, so now it’s time for some back story for one of the characters – Catherine Lord. She was inspired by a real Catherine who lived in the area of CLON-X’s narrative and with whom I have something of a connection.I never met her, and since she passed away in 2003, that chance encounter won’t happen – at least, not on this earth. From what I can piece together through obituaries and hearsay, she was a doctor in Grapevine. My connection to her is through her home and property, which we purchased from her family after her passing.
When we toured Catherine’s house, the listing Realtor regaled me with stories of how much the former owner loved flowers. But in the years when Catherine hadn’t been physically well and couldn’t tend to the property, both the house and the land suffered from neglect. Then, after her death, the property was vacant for a time. As a result, the house had structural issues and many of the mature trees were overgrown with vines. Neglect had thinned out the roses and the azaleas, both of which need a certain amount of attention in Texas, but the hundreds of lilies and irises had actually thrived, even during the months that the property sat idle, listed for sale.
I really liked the house. Its layout would have been perfect for us, though we would have altered the décor to our own preferences. So we took on the major effort to clean up the abandoned land and make the house livable. But try as we might, we couldn’t find a builder willing to renovate or remodel. There were too many issues, including foundation problems as well as general neglect. Though we attempted to fix some things, no one in construction would warranty their work, leading us to the difficult decision to raze the home and build new.
And what about Catherine’s flowers? The roses and azaleas, I soon discovered, weren’t healthy enough to live through another hot Texas summer, but the lilies and irises? Quite frankly, I’ve never been a big fan of either flower, but to simply discard the plants went against my earthy nature. After all, Earth Day is on my birthday.
I battled with the idea of how much work it would take to transplant hundreds of bulbs when I had so many other projects staring at me – one book to edit, another in the works, blog posts, listing our prior home for sale, getting a new one habitable until we made a decision about remodeling or razing – not to mention spending time with our aging giant, Shotz.
One morning in April, I followed my normal routine of loading Shotz into our 4Runner and making the drive to Catherine’s house to supervise the work we were having done. When I opened the side gate to Catherine’s backyard and unleashed Shotz, I turned the corner of the house and saw a field of blooming irises and lilies. In that moment, I knew. If we had to demolish the house, I would be transplanting every one of those thriving plants.
We may not have been able to save Catherine’s home, but I saved her precious flowers. And in a way, I saved her home as well – transplanted to a beautiful site overlooking Lake Grapevine in the pages of CLON-X.