Gretel returned to her work of cleaning out the overgrown flower beds. She felt warm from her work, but there was still enough of a chill in the air that she kept her shawl around her shoulders. A few feet way, Hansel pruned the thorny barberry bush. He wore his work gloves to protect against the barbs. The bush had grown haphazardly against the side of the cottage and was in great need of being trimmed back.
“Do you remember the honeysuckle bush that grew on the south side of our house? It grew tangled up in the evergreen there by the kitchen window. Do you remember that?” Hansel asked, breaking the silence.
“Yes, it had little flowers all over it in the spring time. It smelled so sweet.”
“I had forgotten about the smell. I was remembering when we would crawl under the branches and watch the bees buzzing around.”
Gretel stopped to rest and looked up at Hansel. He was smiling with the memory and Gretel couldn’t help but smile with him. She recalled the way the warm sun would trickle through the honeysuckle branches that arched over them as they lay back in the patchy grass. She could smell the sticky sweet scent of the nectar and hear the droning of the bees as they flew from flower to flower. She could feel the peacefulness of the moment.
Hansel spoke again, waking her from her daydream. He ran his hands along the handles of his pruning shears as he talked. “That was one of the first trees that Father let me prune. I think I was only about six years old that fall and he taught me how to cut back the branches of the honeysuckle, the long limbs that had crept into the evergreen tree. I had thought that the cutting would hurt the tree, but Father had assured me that it was necessary. Even helpful to carve off some of the branches. It wasn’t until the next spring that I realized he was right. By pruning off the overgrown boughs, we had made room for new growth and there were even more flowers that spring.”
Gretel smiled, “Cut away the old ...”
“... to make way for the fruit,” Hansel finished the familiar saying. “Father has a little saying for everything, doesn’t he. Just yesterday he said ...” Hansel stopped when he saw Gretel’s face harden. Perhaps by coincidence, the sun was covered by a dark ash-colored cloud and a cool breeze blew around them. “Anyway,” he murmured. “It will be good for this bush to be cut back, perhaps we will enjoy a more colorful spring.”