This coming Sunday is Mother’s Day, and here in Ellensburg it also marks the official start of the gardening season-the date when it’s safe to plant anything because it’s most likely past the last frost. I think it’s fitting that these two days coincide, because for me the two are intertwined.
Last Saturday morning it was bright and sunny and with a temporary lull in the wind I decided to spend a couple hours in my newly emerging garden. As I made my rounds, I remembered other times, in other gardens.
When I was small I stayed with my mom’s mom, Dorothy, for a week. I was terribly homesick and would stare at my mother’s picture, hanging in my grandmother’s hallway, and cry and cry. I remember my grandmother setting me down in a big comfortable chair, making me peach toast, and telling me everything would be alright--my parents would come for me soon, and that we should try to have some fun in the meantime. I remember following her out into her garden and watching her fill her bird bath, and thinking at the time that there wasn’t anything grander than watching the water gush from the hose and splash against the cement of the birdbath….
Years later I lived with my father’s mother for about a year and a half. She was in her late 80’s at the time, and in need of some help around the house. I was in my early 20’s and making my third (and final) run at a college degree. I was to pay her a small sum each month for room and board and also do things for her that she couldn’t do herself. At first I felt it was going to be the worst time of my life. She was stubborn, and moody and we clashed many times. But it didn’t take long for us to discover that we had a mutual love of doing things with our hands-including gardening. I’ll never forget the sight of her hoeing madly at “weeds” that were really baby potatoes beginning to come up. I tried to point this out, but I don’t think she could hear me! Shortly before I moved out, she asked if I would plant her flower garden for her. I did so willingly and I felt so much pride when she told me what a nice job I had done. My Grandmother Helen is gone now, and I can’t help wishing that I could have her back again. I learned so much from her in that year and a half. She had a lot of wisdom to give from the life she had lived, which had been extremely hard at times. The day I moved out both of our hearts were breaking…
My own dear mother Anita and I have spent many happy hours gardening together. When I still lived at home taking care of the yard was a family affair and my job was edging around flower beds and along sidewalks-and done with a little hand trimmer too--no weed eaters allowed! ( We were a “push mower” kind of family--before it became the environmentally friendly thing to do.) As strange as it may seem-I loved this chore. I thought it was fun, and yes my hand often felt like it was about to fall off but I learned to love being outside, and I also began to really like the idea of growing and tending plants. From a container or two of geraniums at my first apartment I have gardened my way up to having a full fledged flower and vegetable garden. Now, when my parents visit us, or we visit my parents, my mom and I walk around our respective gardens chatting like long lost friends who have a lot of catching up to do, all the while pulling up a weed here, or doing a bit of deadheading there… I’m so thankful for these times!
I have learned so much and appreciated the invaluable advice I’ve gotten from my wonderful mother-in-law Mickey. She is a true master gardener and amazes me with her skill and knowledge and energy in creating some of the most beautiful gardens I’ve ever seen. She has inspired me to try new things, and has also shown me how beautiful fresh cut garden flowers look in cobalt blue glass vases-stunning!
I’m happy to see that my own sweet daughter Amy also has a love for gardening. It means that she will follow in the footsteps of her great grandmothers, grandmothers, and me. From the time she could barely walk she has followed me around, observing and learning and helping. Once, when she was about three she was watching me pull the faded blooms off of some flowers, and in her own precious way copied me by pulling off many flower buds before I could stop her! Another time we rescued a baby robin from a cat and brought it home to our garden where it could rest among the tall stalks of hollyhock. Unfortunately it was too injured and shocked to survive, and so it died quietly in that peaceful place.
This coming Mother’s Day Amy will be away at Honors Camp, but that’s ok. We don’t really need a special day to celebrate--she knows, and I know, and all the mothers in my family know, and have known that mothers, like gardens, are to be celebrated every day!