What My Mom And Daisies In A Jelly Jar Taught Me About Life
I grew up with the kind of mother that kids who got robbed in the mother department fantasized about. Beautiful, smart, funny, creative, independent, stubborn, and protective as hell, for starters. At 5’2 my mother was the fiercest Mama Bear around – word on the street was that if you dared to hurt one of her cubs, you would be VERY sorry. And then there was her sheer determination that no matter what happened, we’d “figure it out.” And figure it out she did. As a single mom with three kids on an art teacher’s salary, we never knew about the nights she stayed up worrying about how she was possibly going to afford to rent that flute for me, or trombone for my brother. Not to mention the braces for all three of us or the field trip money or the new school clothes or the hundreds (thousands?) of other things I didn’t realize she had to swing until I became a mom myself. She somehow just figured it out.
But while she sacrificed virtually all of her own needs and desires to satisfy ours, she did have one personal indulgence – plants. From the time I was little I remember my mother filling our home and yard with plants of every description. Green leafy climbing plants that wound their way around yardsticks stuck in terra cotta pots, flowering viney something-or-others that magically clung to fences and gates in just the right places, wild bunches of daises that seemed to suddenly appear from nowhere, creatively arranged in an empty jelly jar. And then there were the cattails. For some unknown reason, my mother loved cattails. Actually, “love” is just not a strong enough word. My mother was obsessed with cattails. So obsessed, that I have numerous very strong childhood memories that involve my tiny Mighty Mouse of a mother suddenly shouting, “Look! Cattails!” and pulling the car over to the side of the road so she could scale a fence, wade her way through some boggy marsh, or otherwise trespass on private property to
steal rescue the poor suffering cattails from their current condition.
As the years went by, my mom’s love of all things green continued to flourish, as she introduced us to new types of plants and new ways of displaying them, including the bane of every 70’s household – macrame plant hangers. Her love of these hideous (sorry, Mom) contraptions – sometimes accented with wooden beads, fringe, or some other type of adornment that I’ve since
blocked out long forgotten, rivaled her earlier obsession with cattails, and they were everywhere. And not just the off-white macrame cord that is almost palatable – oh no. My creative art teacher mother designed intricate works of macrame art using lime green cord, and burlap-looking cord, and yellow cord, too. And I would be remiss if I failed to mention the orange monstrosity of a macrame plant hanger that she worked on for weeks in the garage. “Where’s that one going, Mom?” I remember asking her, worried sick about her answer since my bedspread and the tiny flowers on my bedroom drapes were orange. “You’ll see, honey – it’s a surprise!” It was a surprise, all right. Especially one night in particular after she hung it in my bedroom (directly in front of the sliding glass doors that led outside), and I knocked into the plant as I was trying to sneak in past curfew. Have you ever tried to clean up dirt in a celery-colored shag carpet at 3am without awaking your mother? Damned macrame.
Growing up, I never really gave my mother’s passion much thought. When you’re a kid, you think everybody’s mom is like your mom. I suppose that as I got older, I grew to understand that my mother was more excited by plants and gardening than the average bear, but I regarded it as a hobby she did to please herself, and really nothing more. Until one day, about ten years ago, when I finally realized what my mother had been secretly teaching me all along. At the time a single mother myself, my girls and I were going through a particularly difficult stretch, and I wanted to find a way to bring an extra dose of happiness and hope into our lives. Without even really thinking about it, I drove to the local nursery and loaded up on pansies in bright, beautiful, happy colors, and planted like mad so that the girls would be greeted with a burst of new color when they arrived home from school. At some point during my planting, it hit me – that’s why my mother loved her plants so! It was for us! Those daisies in a jelly jar didn’t suddenly appear just to make my mother happy – they were there to give us hope, and to teach us that the most beautiful things in life needn’t be expensive, or complicated. As I sat there weeping in my pansy flowerbed, I realized that she also taught me that if you take care of and nurture the things you love most, they will grow, thrive, and give back to you as much as you gave them. And last but not least, if you suspect your kids are sneaking out in the middle of the night, hang something big and potentially messy in front of their escape route. Wow.
That’s quite a gift my mom gave to me, and once I realized the impact that her love of plants has had on my life, I’ve cherished my time in the garden even more. I suspect many reading this have been given the same gift by their mothers. So as we celebrate this Mother’s Day, and every day after, I send a very heartfelt thank you to my mom and all the other moms out there who have instilled a love of gardening (and all the wonderful lessons that come with it) in the hearts of their children.