The Gardener

My mom loved gardening. I vividly remember playing outside, as a child, during summer weekends, watching my mom hunched over her various flower beds with her blue and white cowboy-style bandanna tied around her head. She would be weeding or transplanting new flowers. There would be containers of near fluorescent marigolds, pansies or some other colorful summer flower. One house we lived in there was a stone wall in front of our house and my mom and planted rows of bright orange tiger lilies all along it. When I got home from riding my bike somewhere I could see the brightness from way down the street. Those flowers were like a landing strip for my bike.  Out of all the flowers my mom loved though, the one she had to buy every year were geraniums. Early summer always meant there would be pots of red blooms decorating our porch or front steps. It couldn’t be white or pink. They always had to be a deep rich red color. I must admit I’ve always loved the contrast between the red flowers and the verdant green stems and leaves.

So, the other day I was missing her like crazy so I decided to go to Wentworth Gardens in Rollinsford, New Hampshire. It is a massive complex with endlessly long greenhouses and a gorgeous outdoor space filled with bushes, trees, and other flowering plants. My mom and I went there the first spring we lived in Maine and she loved it. It’s such a wonderful memory I have of her, seeing that gardening spark come alive again in her eyes again. I spent a good amount of time just walking around looking at all the flowering plants. Then I spotted the geraniums and a lump immediately formed in my throat. I made my way towards them and as I touched one of the blooms I felt the tears welling up in my eyes and I swallowed hard and took some deep breaths trying to compose myself. I didn’t want to have a full-on meltdown in public. I knew what I had to do though, and I’m sure you have figured it out as well. I bought three deep red geraniums and planted them in a large pot that sits on my porch. Sitting on the porch and transplanting them to their new home gave me a moment where I felt close to my mom again. That was a nice feeling to have when, for the most part, she feels so far away from me. Now, throughout the summer, when I see those flowers, I’ll smile because I know she’ll have the same look on her face when she looks down and sees them.

geraniums

Lily of the Valley

Lily of the Valley Aaron Burden

My mother’s favorite flower was Lily of the Valley. The small white blooms hold so much fragrance they’ve always seemed otherworldly to me. On our property we’ve had a few plants here and there but nothing like we had at our last house. At the last house we lived in, we had a whole bed of them that bloomed every spring and filled the air around our house with sweetness. On Tuesday night, the one week anniversary of my mom’s death, I was walking my dog out in front of the house when a smell hit my nose. I shined the flashlight along the ground and there they were, more Lily of the Valley than I have ever seen here. A little grove of them all blooming in the nighttime. My knees buckled and I found myself sitting there looking at them with tears streaming down my face. My dog, who unfortunately is becoming all too used to my random sobbing, came over and started licking my face and pressing himself against me to comfort me. I ran a shaking finger along one leaf and swear I felt my mom there with me at that moment. Of course, I couldn’t see her but in my heart I know she was there. After a while I stood back up and went back into the house and went to bed and, for the first time since she passed away, I felt comforted knowing that there was some part of her watching over me.