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For My Mother

A Gardening Life – May 12

As I walk around my garden on this Mother’s Day I count my blessings and know that so many of them have come to me from my mother. Some of my abilities are inherited from her and are undoubtedly genetic, but it took the greenhouse of her care to allow those traits to grow and flower.

“I want to make something…what can I use to make something?” I used to repeatedly ask as a child. She would come up with paper to draw on, macaroni to color and string, and shoeboxes for dioramas. Once she gave me her sanitary napkins to take apart and use for snow in the miniature village I was constructing.

One of the biggest gifts my mother gave her children was the love of books and language. When we were small she read books to us aloud, delighting herself in the rhythms and rhymes of A.A. Milne’s poems or Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book. “Go to the banks of the great grey-green, greasy Limpopo River, all set about with fever-trees…” she read, and we both could picture the lush and slimy waterway.

I’m so grateful that my mother gave her children such freedom in the outdoors. Kids had the run of the neighborhoods at that time and it was wonderful to be allowed to make our fun in the bower of the bushes and the canopies of trees.

My mother passed along her love of plants and nature and nurtured my creativity and appreciation for the written word. Although she can no longer travel to see what I’m growing, Mom is with me in my gardens, this morning and always. She is largely responsible for my ability to create beautiful landscapes and the desire to write about them.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom…with appreciation and love.

My mother's apartment in assisted living is filled with plants. She still takes pleasure in the things that are important: nurturing life, family, and nature. When her door is open those that pass by delight in the greenhouse atmosphere as well. I am so grateful to the staff at Emeritus at Oakridge, where my mother lives, for acknowledging the importance of Mom's plants and for valuing who she is as I do.

4 comments to For My Mother

  • My husband and I tried unsuccessfully for three years to have children. The final fertility drug ‘cocktail’ was mixed with the flu shot per the recommendation of the endocrinologist. They didn’t mix well. Three days later, I woke to a priest performing last rites ‘just in case’ at St Vincent’s hospital. After this ordeal, the emotional roller coaster ensued. I lost my way. I felt undefined as a woman. So, I did the only thing I knew how to: I ‘healed’ in the garden. Since I could not create life inside me, I created a personal sanctuary in my backyard. One plant at a time, I lovingly weaved patterns, textures and forms. When I look around today, I see all my ‘children’ and visit with them daily. Most are teenagers now who have definitely hit that ‘gangly’ stage. On Mother’s Day, I generally go to the beach over the weekend to avoid the crush of media attention given this one day in May. I ask dear reader: Shouldn’t Mother’s Day be every day and not just a Hallmark invention? Should there be a non-Mother’s day for those of us who can not have children as well?

  • Dawn,
    Thanks for this personal and thoughtful comment. Mother’s day is one of those “loaded” holidays like Valentine’s Day and New Year’s Eve…commercially driven, emotionally pumped up, and often so sweetly sentimental that we’re all in danger of getting cavities before the end of the day. I have frequently said that it’s interesting that we assign a special day to remember mothers and fathers but not other people that our society truly esteems.

    Have you read Anne Lamott’s Salon piece called “Why I Hate Mother’s Day?” I read it aloud when I gave a Mother’s Day sermon in my church one May. Much of the congregation seemed displeased, although they were polite enough to say that the sermon was “interesting.” I guess that people are most comfortable with the sweet and sentimental side of this Sunday in May and have trouble embracing the “Whole Life Gardening” reality that some women can’t be mothers, some are shitty mothers, and some don’t want to be mothers.

    Normally in this blog I strive to accept and celebrate all aspects of our gardens, physical and metaphorical. But today’s post has a singular purpose: honoring my own mom. She doesn’t get to hear people sing her praises as much as she should, so today’s piece was for her.

  • A truly touching and honest honoring of your mom.

    I am not a mom, in that I have no children. Sometimes Mother’s Day gives me a flutter of sadness for this. But I try to mother every day while in the gardens–mine and others–encouraging the strength and goodness of every being.

    And thank you, CL for reminding me that I will think today of how my mom has contributed so much to my growth.

  • Joyce

    I can relate to Lamott’s piece about hating Mother’s Day. It does set so many up for disappointment and worse, being patronized. I have been blessed with being a mom and a nana…and also experienced lots of challenges along with it. I cared so much that I risked being hated as I tried to shepherd my girls to become smart, thoughtful and creative. As my mom before me, I wasn’t always the warm, fuzzy mom I think my children wished I could be. Today as I was wished a Happy Mother’s Day I, too, didn’t know how to sensitively respond to women who haven’t been mothers…who are wonderful and contribute a great deal to this short life with their talents and generosity. I would suggest a Random Appreciation Day rather than Mother’s Day. That said, I’m glad for the good memories you are experiencing about your mom today, C.L. She definitely has been an important, positive influence with your Whole Life Gardening!