Mom Gardening Metaphors

Rosa 'Irish Hope'

I went to Trader Joe's this morning for a gallon of milk.  The market entrance was crammed with last-minute Mother's Day gifts:  flower bouquets in get-and-go decorative bags, potted hydrangeas, candy-colored azaleas, and tuberous begonias, their pots wrapped in gleaming Mylar; tissue-cloned orchids in clear plastic tubes, freesias and tulips in ceramic mugs, a few succulents for the more practical Moms or for the Moms whose kids get to Trader Joe's last, after even the begonias are gone.  By mid-morning Sunday the shelves will be stripped.  

No gift for my Mom this year; she's as gone with the wind as Twelve Oaks. 

There are Moms that say "I love you!" all day, every day, who always have a hug and a supportive word and glow with love.  Flowery Moms, who get the azaleas and tulips that are dead in a week.

My Mom was not one of those.  I can't recall that she ever said "I love you!"  I can't recall that she ever gave me a hug, except one or two that were extremely reluctant, and I'm totally okay with that, because she happened to give me far better gifts.  Gifts like pragmatism and an outsider's perspective.   Thriftiness when required.  Recycling back when it was called "saving money":  the liners from cereal boxes make sturdy lunch bags--even better, don't buy cereal, it's way overpriced.  I can hear her voice now:  "No wonder cereal is so expensive!  They sell it to you in those expensive bags inside a box already!"  Mom was a child of the Great Depression and never forgot it. 

And her frankly baffled outsider's appraisal of The American Way Of Life--Mom was an hardscrabble immigrant and never forgot that, either.   I can imagine her looking at a Trader Joe's Tulip-In-A-Cup.  She would shake her head.  "Twelve dollars for a tulip?" she'd say.  "Those Americans! Throwing their money away!  They're crazy!"

The garden metaphor for my Mom is not the Azalea forced into bloom, certainly not a $12 Tulip-In-A-Cup.  No hugs, heck with the the I-Love-You ("Those Americans!").  My Mom was the chunky clay soil from which flowers spring.

As it happens, I do have special soil in my garden.  When Mom & Dad bought their last house, they spent a string of summer evenings with a screen and shovels digging out the gravel in their new yard.  The house was part of a river bed at one time, and the soil was loaded with river gravel.   I remember them going outside after dinner, when the sun was low, to dig and sift out the soil from the rocks, chatting casually.  

I was at that age when a child has all of the strength and energy required to help an aging parent, and absolutely no interest in doing so. 

Shortly before we lost Mom, I reminded her of that summer of gravel removal, and to my surprise she remembered it fondly.   "We had nice time doing that," she said.  "It was relaxing.  The evenings were cool.  We enjoyed working together." 

When my sister and I were clearing out the house, preparing to sell it after Mom's death, there happened to be too much soil in part of her yard.  It was piled up and looked bad.  At the same time, I had a section in my yard that was a foot too low.  So I brought several loads of that soil back to my house and filled the low spots.  I never thought about it at the time, but I also brought that happy memory of long lost summer evenings with me, too.  Now, flowers spring from it. 



  1. Your mum looks so sweet in front of her house.

  2. I'm probably confusing you by reading your posts out of order, but just wanted to say this post was very special. I miss the people in my life that werr very like your mom. I miss them tremendously. I hope I'm the stuff that produces as beautifully as they…


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