A love affair with peonies

Many years ago when I was a kid, I stayed at a friend’s house at around this time of year, and it was then that I was introduced to the beauty of peonies. They have been one of my favorite flowers ever since, especially ones that are a deep, vibrant red. In addition to their beauty, I like their fragrance, and they are very hardy and easy to grow.

The friends I was staying with at the time were Ebner and Lois Bailey in Indianapolis. I have many happy memories of them — they were special people. Ebner was a big, tall guy, whereas Lois was small and a little plump, wearing her hair in a particular style on top of her head with a black ribbon wrapped around it. Ebner was rather quiet but had many interesting stories to tell and had many colorful life experiences. For example, he excelled at catching snapping turtles by hand in murky river waters, something I would not dream of doing.

Lois was a great cook, and perhaps the best thing she made — what she was famous for — was her German potato salad. At that time in my life, as a kid, I wasn’t too fond of any potato salad. But hers was special, and I have never tasted another potato salad like hers.

They were an elderly couple back then, with their children full grown and out of the house. I enjoyed visiting them not only because of the peonies in their backyard, but also the giant tulip tree. And then there was their dog, a malamute or husky named Nanook. She was spoiled, a bit overweight, but a wonderful dog who shed an incredible amount. After she died, they had another dog, a Sheltie.

Lois died long before Ebner, and for several years he carried on, but was bereft without his wife. I thought of them both again today, with great fondness, as I noticed that our peonies are now in bloom once more. I took a quick photo of one of them to use as the featured photo for this post.

Below are a few photos of the Baileys taken by my grandma McCallum in 1976 or 1977. The first one was taken with them standing outside the front door of my grandparents’ house, and the second one shows them visiting with my father, as well as my older twin brother and sister, Dan and Debbie, in our living room.

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