The Kilbourne Vine Caper…

Note: Today would have been my mom’s 72nd birthday.  This was my second post, so there are a lot of people who haven’t seen it…I am rerunning it today in memory of my mom.

Mom and Dad didn’t follow the typical path of Midwestern young people of their time: graduate high school, get married, and start popping out kids…Dad did a Bachelor’s in Journalism, followed by a Master’s in Divinity, and dreamed of going “back to the land” (he was raised in rural Ohio).  Mom was a “townie” – an artist who also loved music.  They were becoming more and more disillusioned with Nixon, the Vietnam War, and the crime in our neighbourhood.  In the summer of ’69, Dad quit the church and he and Mom packed up our suburban house.  Off we went to Southern Ontario, Canada.  After renting a house for a year, we settled in an old farmhouse on 43 acres of land in Prince Edward County in 1970.

I remember having a vegetable garden for several years when we first moved to the County.  Mom and Dad bought a big chest freezer, and Mom worked hard freezing everything we managed to grow.

Mom never forgot a plant that grew near the house where we lived when I was born in Kilbourne, Ohio in 1961.  She didn’t know its proper name, but called it “Kilbourne Vine.”  It was pretty, and it grew wild – that’s probably one reason it appealed to her.

Fast forward to the early 1980’s…Mom, my brother and I were planning a trip to visit relatives in Ohio.  It was on that vacation that Mom decided to bring a piece of the past home with her: she wanted to plant some “Kilbourne Vine” in our yard in Ontario.

Having arrived at my Grandad’s house in Bellefontaine, we set out for Kilbourne one day.  We got there about lunchtime, and Mom guided us to our old house.  We waited in the car while she jumped out and rang the doorbell.  No one answered.  My brother and I were somewhat horrified at what happened next…my mom began pulling pieces of the “Kilbourne Vine” out of the yard!  We kept our ears open for the scream of sirens, as we imagined being arrested by the Kilbourne sheriff for pilfering plants without permission.  Mom came back to the car, showing us her prize in triumph.  We left in a hurry, hoping some nosy neighbor hadn’t alerted the authorities!

We made it back to Bellefontaine without incident…the next hurdle would be getting through Canada Customs.  Having made many trips back and forth to Ohio over the years, Mom knew that bringing plants into Canada was illegal, but she had a plan: “I’ll put it on the floor of the back seat in plain sight, and if they say anything, I’ll just say that I didn’t know you couldn’t import plants,” she said.  My mom the rebel!

My mom the rebel!

We crossed the Ambassador Bridge and pulled up to the Canada Customs booth in Windsor.  My brother was driving.  The Customs officer was female, in her early 20’s, and was looking at Jeff with love in her eyes…she asked three questions (none of which pertained to the plant on the floor), and we were through!

We arrived home, and Mom planted the vine in her flower garden.  It thrived in its new home.  Twenty years later, Mom took a piece of it with her when she sold our house and moved in with my brother and his family in Carleton Place, Ontario.

Mom died in September of 2007.  The urn with her ashes sits on a stone wall in Jeff’s back yard, with Kilbourne vine planted close by.

I have seeds from the Kilbourne vine…I will find a special place and plant it here, too, in Mom’s memory.


Filed under family, gardening, memories

57 responses to “The Kilbourne Vine Caper…

  1. Pingback: The Kilbourne Vine Caper… (via Herding Cats in Hammond River) | Change is Never Ending

  2. Wendy, do you know the true name of the vine yet? What a wonderful story, and what a wonderful memory of your Mom. The fact that you have a piece of her – through the vine – is incredible. ~ Lenore

  3. Your Mom sounds like a smooth criminal! Seriously, she sounds like a great parent and friend. Beautiful post in her memory.

  4. Ah, happy birthday to your mom! She sounds like a wonderfully “wicked” woman I would have loved. What a delightful memorial, Wendy!

  5. I’ve long suspected you had outlaw in your blood, Wendy. 🙂

    What a fond and special remembrance. Wishing you a day full of many more warm memories of your mom.

  6. Oh Wendy, this made me cry.

    What a beautiful post. So glad you re-ran it, as I hadn’t seen it. And Happy Birthday to your Mom.

    She sounds like a wonderful woman. I can totally picture her ripping the vines off that house! And in my family, we’d have done the same thing. It’ll grow back…

    One time when living in Seattle, I had to do a story about border crossings. So I drove up to the Canadian border, and to where I thought the office was, but for some reason I couldn’t figure out how to drive to it. And I ended up crossing the border! Whoops. So then I had to do a U-Turn, which they hate.

    Before I did it, I told the guy at the crossing that all I wanted to do was get over to the office as I had an appointment. And could I just back up and turn around without crossing? He said no. And grudgingly told me to cross the border, then make a U-Turn and cross back in.

    Well, I did.

    And then the sirens came on! And the crossing guard patrol (whoever they were, this was before 9/11) came out in full force and pulled me over without letting me fully cross back into America.

    I didn’t have my passport with me, as I’d never intended to leave the country. And there I am, sitting in my car, being pulled over, and sure one of the people behind the security cameras trained on me at that moment was the person I was about to interview.

    After many explanations, a phone call to my interviewee, and a search of my car which revealed an apple in my lunch bag, I was given a lecture about importing fruit into the country (yes, it didn’t matter that I’d just U-Turned with the fruit in my car) and finally allowed over to the office where I conducted a less than inspired interview.

    Anyway, now I’m not crying any more over your post, I’m laughing at my own stupidity! But I still think your post was beautiful and am happy you put that great picture of your Mom in it. She looks so happy. 🙂 What a terrific spirit.

    • Sorry to make you cry, Melissa…it was supposed to make you laugh! If you want to cry, here’s another post I wrote about Mom: Loved your border story! Reminds me of our inadvertent border crossing last year: Brianna had a cheerleading competition in St. Stephen. After dropping her off at 8 a.m. on a Sunday morning, we were driving around killing time until the competition started after lunch (nothing in New Brunswick except gas stations and Tim Hortons outlets opens before noon on Sunday, and St. Stephen is a very small town!). Jim decided to drive down and check out the new highway because we hadn’t been on it. Before we knew it, we were on our way to the border with nowhere to go but across! Luckily, after Jim explained our situation to the amused person in the booth, they allowed us to just circle back around through (none of us had passports with us!). Wendy

  7. I hadn’t read this one from before, Wendy, so it was all new to me. What a lovely tribute to your mom. Sad that she passed so young!

  8. My 70-year-old mother flies in to see me tomorrow. She is the best woman (and the funniest) I know. Your post reminded me (a) how lucky I am that she’s still healthy, and (b) how valuable time together is.

    And, Wendy, it sounds to me like you have a lot of your mom’s spirit living in you!

  9. beautiful tribute to your mom…blessings on this bittersweet day.


  10. Oh Wendy, thanks for reposting! I missed it the first time around and it is truly a moving post. I love reading posts such as these about people, their lives and loves. Life is limited and precious but memories are eternal. Thanks for sharing some eternity with us!


  11. Great story. So glad you reposted it so I could enjoy it. 🙂 Your mom sounds like an amazing woman.

  12. Wendy – there’s nothing I can say about this lovely post. Thanks for sharing. 🙂


  13. I love rebel moms. I’ve got one myself. She’s 85 and still working while her daughter ( me) is retired. I don’t think the Kilbourne Vine would have made it in this post 9/11 world, glad it did in the 80’s.

  14. Wonderful story. I’m sure your mom smiles every time you tell it…

  15. jacquelincangro

    I’m glad that you reposted this Wendy. I hadn’t read the original post. A lovely memory. It’s so interesting the little moments that stay with us the most.

    Imagine all of the other plants your mom could have “imported” had she so desired! 🙂

  16. Great story. I’ve always liked the idea of keeping seeds from different places I’ve lived or from the yards of people I’ve cared about and planting them all in one place some day when I’m settled.

  17. Lovely post, Wendy. Your mother sounds like a wonderful person.

  18. Jess Witkins

    What a beautiful photo of your mom, she was a rebel! Sneaking exotic botanic materials across the Canadian border! Happy birthday to your mom, Wendy! I’m sure she’s watching over you, your Kilbourne vine, and the whole family.

  19. What nice memories and well-written. My mom died seventeen years ago, and I still miss her every day. So many questions I wished I’d asked her.

  20. izziedarling

    Wendy – I love this and am so glad you reposted it. xo iz

  21. The Canadian authorities have been looking for almost 30 years for the culprit who introduced Mysterious Ohio Vine Blight to the country.

    What a wonderful story! It’s sweet that you and your brother can look to your gardens for reminders of your mom. I hope you find a special place for your seeds soon.

  22. Val

    This is a lovely tribute to your mother, she sounds like she was very assertive! Mine was too, but in a different way. 🙂

    I think this must be my first comment here, though I’ve seen yours in many other blogs.

    • Welcome to Hammond River, Val…I’ve seen you over at Amiable Amiable’s and Charles’ place… Yes, my mother became more assertive after moving to Canada…she used to be the dutiful pastor’s wife. Wendy

  23. That’s beautiful. In our family we are firm believers in celebrating the life, rather than mourning the loss, though that’s easier with folks who had a full run. Mrs Dim recently had to return to the UK for her grandmother’s funeral. This was the third time Gran has actually died, (one of the others was on Mrs Dim’s birthday, and she still says giving her Grandmother mouth-to-mouth was no way to spend your special day…) but this time she was determined there would be no resuscitation. After all, she was ninety three! But she was surrounded by love, had both her daughters present and had met all the great grandchildren that had been born to date.
    Your parents sound like people who made the most of life, and they seem to have given you some marvellous memories to treasure. Thank you for sharing some of them.

  24. The way you’re able to describe your mother makes me feel like I knew her. She sounds like she was pretty exceptional person. The fact that she stuck it to Canadian Customs makes me like her even more. Cheers to keeping her memory alive with such a great story.

  25. Barb

    I love that story about my Aunt Dottie! She was always the “wild aunt”! LOL I miss her so much! I love reading whatever you write Wendy! I miss you too, lets plan on that family reunion! XO

  26. That’s a great recollection of your mom. She must have been amazing. To have the still growing plant that let’s you say, my mom touched this. It’s so affirming.
    What a great story.
    How parents behave!
    Tearing off the vines!!!… I thought my mother was outrageous using her spit to clean my face but this story takes the cake.
    Loved it!

  27. I love this story, Wendy. What a wonderful tribute to your mom. These are the memories that we savour. 🙂

  28. Absolutely lovely Wendy. You look so like your Mom and I know you have her spirit too! I am so glad you have such happy memories. Would love to see a picture of the vine when you plant it 🙂

    • Thank you for your kind words, Harsha! I still haven’t planted the vine…it’s perennial, and I haven’t found a good spot where deer can’t access it, or the lawnmower might run over it! Jim’s parents gave us a raised garden bed frame…I’m hoping to get that put in the back yard later on… Hugs, Wendy

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