I am going to attempt to try the impossible.
I have been wanting to get back to my magnificent muse writings but felt I really couldn’t do another without writing first about my mom. I have been thinking about it for months and so many memories, lessons and thank-yous, it seems impossible to write the words that will encompass all of the love and energy that is my mom. So this will just have to be one of many so that I am not too paralyzed to start. Knowing that the gratitude and inspiration is never ending will allow me to begin. Perhaps this will be my new mother’s day tradition. Normally, I plant the sunflower seeds she sends me every year on Mother’s day, but that will have to wait until later week when the weather is better.
It really feels impossible to know where to begin. There is just so much.
As I look out the window at the SNOW falling this May 11th.. (hey, it’s my half-birthday!)… my first thank you is that she taught me to love and care for my little corner of the earth. I am mourning the loss of all the iris, peony, and delphinium blooms that are now frozen. She would be just as devastated.
I could describe every plant and flower on our property in Virginia where I grew up. The rows of daffodils on the east side of the driveway, the dogwood where the cars were parked, the azaleas that surrounded the front porch, the lilies and forsythia along the fence row, the wisteria where our old english sheepdog would eat the bumble bees…. I can still see and smell it all. She created a natural, magical place for us to grow up. I loved getting to garden along side of my mom. At the end of the driveway, we would plant some zinnias and marigolds. I can see her long tan legs, her hair tucked behind her ear and her beautiful hands working the soil in my mind. She now lives on a beautiful hilltop along the Blue Ridge Mountains, a lifetime away from the hilltop of my childhood. Once again, she has created beautiful spaces that match the view. I’ll be going to see her in a month and I can’t wait to see how her living canvas has grown and matured and what else she has created on her corner of the earth. Last year, I received a box in the mail full of plants from her own garden. Much to my surprise most of them are coming back this year. Hopefully the snow won’t kill them off. I love having plants that her hands cared for here in my yard. It feels magical.
My mom loves and celebrates the magic of childhood. It was simple but magical. And when I think back on my favorite memories, it was she who orchestrated them. The first one that pops into my mind was an incredibly hot summer day. We lived in an old farmhouse and back then very few people had air conditioning. We had some A/C units in our bedrooms that got turned on at night on rare occasions. It was so hot. Too hot to even really think. She got my sister, Jenny and me special coloring books. We never had coloring books, which I thank her for now. She gave me a Raggedy Ann and Andy story coloring book that had tracing paper between the pages. My Raggedy Ann doll was a treasure. I loved her until she was bald and I actually still have her. Someone will have to throw her away once I leave this world. Mom brought down the huge fan to the porch, left us in our matching floral nightgowns and I think I sat and colored and traced that entire book. We sang songs into the fan to make our voices distorted, made popsicles from orange juice. I loved that day. I wonder if she remembers. She was probably running around taking care of my baby sister, Christin and was thinking that the dollar she spent on coloring books was a brilliant move to keep us busy and from whining. At least that’s what I would have thought. She took us on our own special days to raft the river or go to an art museum with just her. No siblings allowed. She celebrated us as individuals and allowed us to be exactly who we were. That has turned out to be the greatest of all gifts.
Of course growing up, I didn’t think she had it all right. I remember being furious that my sisters sometimes had later curfews or that our punishments were never the same as another’s. I foolishly tried to call her out on this and she looked at me calmly and said that consequences and privileges would be as individual as we were and appropriate for that person. I was speechless. She, what I think is brilliant NOW and annoying back then, put all the responsibility right back on to us. As a single mom she had to take the brunt of it all. I don’t know how she did it. Even with her wonderful circle of girlfriends, who were our other mothers, she worked tirelessly. She managed to get her landscape architect degree, work a full time job, drive 100 mile carpools (no exaggeration… country living) for ballet, gymnastics and tennis and do her best to manage a 80 year old farmhouse and land…. believe me half of our childhood was spent cutting grass and my friend Jennifer and I would clean each other’s houses in order to have sleepovers! She got us on track for college which was mandatory, and made sure that we were strong, independent girls so she could send us out into the world. It took a lot of growing up on my part to really see ALL that she did for us. We understood to a degree the huge task she had in raising us, but not until we became mothers ourselves could we fully appreciate the endless work she did. And, I have decided that she must actually have magic powers.
She still creates her simple magic. Two years ago, my boys went to stay with her while I visited with a friend. They took mason jars filled with grass to catch lightening bugs, which we sadly don’t have here in Colorado. She let them put them by their beds as night lights and then they released them the next morning. She gave them trays with different colored puddings and let them finger paint and them told them they could eat it.. but with their hands behind there backs! They thought she was crazy and loved every second of licking their pudding masterpieces. The boys now help her garden when they are there and she sends them pictures of how “their” flowers are doing. There are picnics by the river with rock skipping competitions and she won’t back down, not one bit. She has taught them, like she did us, to be curious as to what’s around the next corner. To want to explore and see more. And, because of this we have had some special, spontaneous, magical days.
But perhaps the most magical memory that she gave to both my sisters and now all of her grandchildren is the magic of sunset. When we were little girls we would have our bath after dinner and in the summer get to go outside with her to blow the sundown over the Blue Ridge Mountain. I remember feeling convinced that if we worked hard enough, we were actually the ones making the sun set. Afterwards, we would say good night to the sun, run under the maple trees to catch lightning bugs and then go upstairs to read before bed. It was a brilliant move to get us to bed. But, what it taught me is to take the time to slow down and be in the moment. I so clearly can feel every last bit of oxygen leaving my body as the last sliver of sun sunk down behind the mountains. I remember that it felt like bad luck to inhale at that moment. She now takes her grandchildren out to blow the sundown when we are together. There is nothing more magical than watching her with them in that moment. The golden color on the faces of the people who anchor me in the past and future and in pure love is definitely a magical experience to be right in the middle.
Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. You truly are magic.
I love you.