Sunday Opinion: Mother’s Day

The shop has been full of people all weekend, in search of something just right for a beloved Mom. You can tell the ones whom that perfect gift has eluded them so far; they have that worried look. Any offer of help was met with a smile.  I always ask if the Mom is a gardener.  Surprisingly many are not-so why shop a garden shop?  There is that instinct to buy a plant or some flowers for a Mom, gardener or not. This seems like perfectly right thinking; Mom’s and gardeners devote much of themselves to making something grow. 

My Mom was a microbiologist, virologist, teacher-and great gardener.  She grew most every tree on our 50’s suburban lot from seed.  And mind you, no maples; we had gingkos. Yes, I am bragging.  She was, however, a reluctant Mom.  I actually think she would have lived a long and happy life had she skipped the children thing-but she didn’t.  A shy and retiring scientist, we three appalled her in most every way.  I never slept, and never shut up; her gift to me was teaching me to read when I was three. Though I am sure she did this in self defense, I have had a lifelong love of reading, and most likely always will.  She read to me long after I was able to read on my own-this was quality time.  She saw to it that I was well educated, and then went on to entertain each and every one of my hairbrained schemes seriously.  I did try to be like her-thus my split college degree in biology-and literature. My gardening is very much like her; my designing is very much like me.  I can only recall her being completely exasperated with me a few times.  She could make anything grow-including me.

I guess this makes me a fan of Mother’s Day; in my parallel world, this holiday would also be known as Gardener’s Day. When I stop to consider the collective effort to plant and nurture that been my privilege to observe and or participate it-I am struck by the volume and passion of that effort.  There are many other gardening people out there, busy raising vegetables, planting trees, growing flowers, teaching gardening to their kids, weeding, deadheading, pruning, planting, moving things around, dreaming and scheming what would make the landscape a better place to be.  The sheer physical work of it is enormous; the sheer delight in the process and results of it even more so. For fifteen years I owned five acres of property in Orchard Lake-my purchase of that property and house in an advanced state of neglect was one of the few times my Mom lost all patience with me.  Though I would never want to repeat what it took to make that ruin of a house liveable, and plant three acres, that work enabled me to start my own landscape design and installation business.  Years later the sale of that property enabled me to buy the building and land that is now home to my shop.  Sometimes on a lark, I will drive by. A new house went up over a field of some 300 peonies-who could have enough peonies, if they had the room? They are one now, but not my memories of them-glorious. The wild garden is more than wild now.  But the orchard is still there, and the little trees are now big trees.  I am satisfied that I left that property much better than I found it. 

This Mother’s Day weekend was a very special one for me.  A dear friend that I had lost track of, and had not seen for 20 years appeared at the shop on Saturday.  My Mom so loved Denise; I feel quite certain that she had an invisible hand in her decision to get in her car and drive up here from Kalamazoo to see what I was up to.  I recognized she and her husband instantly-funny how that works. I was shocked to tears to see her after all these years. We spent no small amount of time talking about the trip that she and I took with Julia to see the lotus in bloom in Monroe.  Nelumbo Lutea is native to Michigan.  A sizeable stand of it is owned and protected by the Ford Motor Company, this just one of countless things that Ford Motor Company nurtures. Denise is a well known artist, and was keen to paint those lotus.  Julia, in her signature denim jumper and keds, waded resolutely into that slimy marshy water in search of some good photographs. As Denise said-it was the biologist in her coming to the fore.  No muck or snake was going to stand in her way.  She was so careful to step around each plant. I vividly remember that denin jumper floating around her like a tutu.  Thanks to Denise, I had my Mother’s Day visit with my Mom.   But even more importantly, Denise reminded me how important it is to nurture those things that matter.  She made that effort.         

Julia passed away unexpectedly and quietly in early May of 2002; few days go by that I do not think of her.  I am quite sure she has a rocking garden where she is now, and that she keeps up with what I do.  Sometimes I can feel her questions-but I always feel her approval-her hand placed quite squarely and resolutely  over my shoulder.  Should you have an interest in seeing Denise’s work-including a pochoir of that lotus from so many years ago, click on the link.

 I hope your Mother’s Day was as wonderful as mine.

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