gardens of love

America, You Can’t Hide Your Heart

So much attention, so many horrific photos, show the grievous harm to America. I thought I’d show you the less noticed heart —that beats every day—in America.

My hometown of Long Beach has reason to be in the dumps over many issues: gas prices, climate change, unrelenting murder in Ukraine—and America.

Sure, there is much in politics, the economy, and the climate that concerns us, and we must act on all of the above.

But some Long Beach homeowners won’t be dragged down into the dirt. They dive into the soil, where they find peace, where their hearts can grow.

I’ve spoken about Lisa Wong-Esposito and her memorial garden before. Her garden thrives at Beech St and Long Beach Rd. You can’t view this patch without a brain smile, as I’ve shown in my past post:

But my sweet Cheryl told me that she drove past another fantastic garden, at Monroe Blvd. and Harrison St. and that I should venture up that way for a peek.

When I dismounted my bike at that location, I found a lady working in that immense swath of color.

I asked if she was the owner. She said, “No, I’m the landscaper.”

When I told her of my blog and that I’d like to write about this garden, she said, “You must be Lee; you wrote about Lisa’s garden? I did her garden too.” I said, “What a wonderful surprise; I never expected you here. I didn’t know you did this one.” She said, “Lisa spoke with me about you recently, and I was thinking about you today.”

Tina introduced me to Craig Meltzer who, with his wife Beth, own the house.

Craig’s eyes brightened, and I could hear the familiar eagerness I’d learned to expect from people with heart. Life is rich for them, and it always shows.

Craig, a semi-retired engineer, said, “This garden represents who we are. Everything has meaning.”

He started with the beer keg—the keg that announced his birth.

In 1956, Craig’s father was building a house. To celebrate Craig’s birth that day, his dad “bought this keg of beer to the Norwegian carpenters working there.” Craig said, “I’ve been carrying it around from house to house” all my life.

Now, Craig finally has that celebratory keg, shellacked and shiny, on display.

Craig showed me his Zen garden in the back of the house. “It’s a place of peace,” Craig said.

The birdhouse was his mom’s:

His newly acquired fire extinguisher:

The fireplace:

The waterfall:

Out front again, I spoke with Tina.

Tina Pascullo, like Craig’s dad, is a builder of houses. Her father, too, did construction. While she has her crew building a house, she follows her other passion—landscaping.

I love people who love what they do, I can speak with them all day long. Tina and I discussed the error of too many people working for money, not their passion.

They even decorated the fire hydrant

Tina said she has her son, Anthony and Carl Forlani to help her. She was adamant when she added, “I have to be here; I love putting my hands in the dirt. I enjoy working physically.” With the home building, she said, “I can tell workers do this, do that, but landscaping is more personal. I put my heart into the planting.”

Tina’s business sign

Tina added, “I go to five to seven nurseries. I’m looking for specific stuff. I put pride into my work. It has to be amazing, top quality, things you don’t see, something unique. Like Lisa’s memorial, something that means a lot to a person.”

Tina said she gets to know the people before considering a landscaping job. She said, “Lisa wanted topiary; Craig wanted texture, not topiary.” He wanted his heart in his landscaping in so many ways.

Tina got to know the Meltzers so well, they now have a solid social relationship, not just a business one. Tina smiled when she said, “I’m part of the family now.” Craig said he and his wife, presently away, enjoy Lisa’s presence at family gatherings, like this one for Beth’s retirement:

From left, Tina’s son, Anthony Pascullo, Carl Forlani, Beth and Craig Meltzer and Tina (Photo, Tina)

Lisa Wong-Esposito’s garden holds her heart, for Frank, her deceased Vietnam vet husband—and America.

Lisa’s corner is a gem on any day on our barrier island’s strand of homes. But Lisa’s garden on the fourth of July expresses that love and—damn, the cost. Jaws drop on the passers-by headed to the beach.

Tina added new plants and new decorations for Frank Esposito’s memorial plaque. And the Fourth decorations, as well.

Rocky enjoys the garden too

Lisa said she decided to trim the topiary herself this year. It’s hard work, but she loves being personally involved in the garden.

Yes—it’s the personal—it reveals heart—you just can’t hide it.

Lisa Wong-Esposito, so much heart, for her husband, for America—in such a tiny body.

And then there’s Maureen.

A couple of years ago while walking our pooch, Scout, we spotted Maureen walking her dog—and cat—together. I wrote about it:

Recently, we came upon Maureen again, and she told us about the new addition to her front garden just down the street, a car.

She did a curb rescue of this BMW and put it to novel use:

Maureen has tomato plants and rosemary in front of her home; the latter makes an attractive and scented addition.

But passers-by are welcome to take sprigs of those herbs for their kitchens.

Maureen even supplies a pair of clippers and plastic bags to assist in the transport:

As with the other earth lovers, you can feel Maureen’s heart when you behold this gesture. It whispers, “Please accept my humble offer; we are all one, you know.”

No matter when I bike past Maureen’s East Long Beach home, I always see old glory flying.

Her garden evinces love:

For decades, Maureen has been protecting the seedlings of our human garden, too. As a Child Protective Service worker, she also went to school at night.

Now, she’s retired from CPS but still works to protect children—as their lawyer.

You see, Maureen is a builder too, she’s one of the army of Americans who work to build a better humankind—one child at a time.

Maureen’s garden is small, but you can see her big heart, right there in her mailbox.

Be well,


9 replies »

  1. After reading trailer I saw so much more beauty in this garden, and now it’s a bit more difficult to tell who’s garden looks the best.


  2. Wow! That really looks beautiful. As good as it looks it’s not as good as the last one you showed me. These people both appear to be rich to have such a landscape. Thanks bro! love ya!


  3. Magnificent blog Lee! It is such a positive blog! These women are filled with love and can express that by creating fabulous gardens! Happy 4th to you and your family Lee!


  4. What a heartwarming essay. A newspaper should publish it. I miss my hometown of LB so much. On the I Love LB page I have an essay I wrote about growing up in town. I graduated LBHS in ’61. And I’m still in touch with many classmates who live everywhere: thank gd for computers, email, etc.
    I enjoy your posts very much. These are typical of the LB folks I grew up with. We had all the games and rides, The Italian Fair, mini golf, the ‘rec center, the municipal pool, and of course the fishing pier.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s