Friday, May 13, 2016

Happy Solitary Mother's Day

I was a late bloomer to being celebrated on Mother's Day. A mother for the first time at 45, I imagine I expected more than the usual cards and flowers. Because I have a big imagination, I probably envisioned a gigantic balloon drop with cheers and applause.

That was almost 20 years ago. So who knows anymore.

As it turned out this year, I spent most of Mother's Day on my own. Maggie called from college to apologize for being so distracted by final papers and exams that she forgot about the card she'd bought 2 weeks ago. I assured her no apology was needed. Cliff was in the hospital and insisted when visiting hours were over I should go home and do something special.

So I did.

Standing in our kitchen, I swooped a spoon in circles above my head and finished the pint of ice cream in our freezer.

Then I went on with my chores. As I passed by the dining room window, I saw it--the motherhood legacy, the generational mark of daughters and mothers who love each other forever, long after gifts and cards are even possible.

The garden of this house we moved to holds a statue of Mary, the supreme mother, left behind by the previous owners, who I assume were catholic. I don't know how many years she's graced that spot, but even though we're not catholic, we resisted moving her. Heaven knows what kind of misfortune might rain down on us for such an injustice.

It makes perfect sense now that Cliff and I transplanted the flowers we'd moved from Minnesota around her base last August. The yellow day lilies that bordered my grandmother's Illinois farmhouse, and probably originated from her mother's house up the road, had been faithfully moved and moved again by her daughter, my mother, who loved them dearly. Because my mother loved them, I loved them. I actually remember them blooming at the farm when I was a little girl.

I also transplanted my mother's beloved purple irises she'd carried from state to state. While day lilies are easy, spontaneous flowers, irises have always seemed more subtle, more elegant, less likely to bloom once transplanted. That my mother loved them has always puzzled me. I can't ask her now either.

You'd think these flowers would have given up. They've been dropped in to and dug from every kind of soil, carted in boxes and buckets, suffered blistering heat, survived tornadoes, and shivered through brutal winters.

Yet, they bloom on.

I don't know why or how these tenuous bulbs have that kind of determination after all the hazardous decades.

Then I walked by our pantry window. To my surprise, the bleeding heart we'd also transplanted, and forgotten about over the winter, was blooming. This flower was my daughter's favorite, perhaps for its stunning pink blossom, perhaps for its resonant name, perhaps for its legacy to the statue beside it. (Read my post, The Happiness of Lady Chang, from May 24, 2014.) I knew Maggie would be pleased when she returned from college for the summer and found those perfect, nodding flowers.

There was my Mother's Day: a celebration for them, the women who mothered me and for the daughter who earned me the title. In those splendid flowers. A celebration of them, not me. The flowers represented 3 generations of devoted mothers and daughters, carefully continuing an unspoken tradition.

Through countless obstacles, with hope and patience, a mother's faith in her child never lessens. It bends and recovers. It gives however much is asked. And an appreciative daughter plants and re-plants those tenuous bulbs of the flowers her mother fancied.

Not to fill a garden space. But to honor her mother.

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