MOTHERS GET THE GREEN THUMBS UP

When it comes to growing plants, I have always wanted to be like my mother and grandmother. Blooms and leaves thrive under their care.

I especially think of them on Mother’s Day.

When I was a child, my family would stop by my grandmother’s house before church on the holiday and wait as my grandmother and mom searched her rose garden for a flower to wear as a corsage on their best Sunday dress or suit.

My mother would look for a red rose to wear because her mother was living. My grandmother would select a white rose because her mother had passed.

I think of them browsing among the flowers together, smiling and discussing which buds to pick.

My grandmother had a nicely-kept yard with a large pecan tree, dogwoods, honeysuckles and a hydrangea bush that my sisters and I used to pick blossoms from to play wedding.

She also was known for her collection of indoor African violets, thick with beautiful blooms in shades of pink, purple and the occasional white. They were so lovely. I wanted to have a green thumb, too. With encouragement, she told me how to care for the plants and made it sound easy.

I more than once purchased a good-sized, healthy violet at the grocery store and brought it home, only to show up at my grandmother’s house weeks later with my green pot in hand and begging her to fix what I had somehow destroyed.

She would lovingly accept my plant with no buds, droopy leaves and seemingly no hope for revival and place it next to her thriving plants displayed on a tiered stand in the gentle sunlight of her living room. My plant was easy to pinpoint.

After she brought the leaves and blossoms back to health, I would bring the plant home and try to follow her instructions again. Inevitably, I returned to her door with a sickly plant.

“Grandma, can you fix it?” I would ask.

She always did.

My mother’s green thumb dotted our home with plants rooting on the kitchen windowsill; homemade centerpieces arranged from greenery and blossoms picked from our yard; mint growing on her gated patio near the front entrance; and always a small spot near the flower beds reserved for her annual garden, which usually consisted of one tomato, one pepper and one cucumber plant.

I watch her with my son each summer as they check her mini-garden for vegetables that he won’t eat but likes to pick.

The experience has made him eager to help with chores in the community garden we have rented with four other families this year.

He recently approached me as we shopped for herbs to plant.

“Can I grow this at home?” he asked, holding up a plant with green leaves.

“What is it?” I answered.

“Mint,” he said. “Grandma grows it.”

My first thoughts were of my African violet disasters. How would my mother be able to revive his mint long distance? But he appeared confident, and I agreed.

Before church today, I took a walk in my backyard. I checked my one rose bush. A pink flower has bloomed and many buds are forming. No one wears corsages on Mother’s Day anymore, but I was tempted.

At the end of mass, ushers were distributing carnations to the mothers of the parish. My son brought me a red one. I cherish the red ones.

As soon as we returned home, I headed toward the kitchen sink and put water into a vase for my carnation. I noticed my son’s mint was thriving nearby.

“It needs a bigger pot,” he said.

He apparently inherited the green thumb.

“Maybe I can root it,” I said, although I have no idea how to do that or if it’s possible.

We moved into the family room, where the sunlight was coming in through the sliding glass doors.

“You know what this room needs?” I said, making an attempt to straighten up a collection of magazines on the coffee table.

“What?” my son asked.

“An African violet,” I said.

“We can get you one,” he said. “After all, it’s Mother’s Day.”

I decided to put it on my grocery list. Maybe with my son’s help, it will survive.

–c

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