Saturday, May 7, 2011

Mother's Day

My mother's gifts have informed who I am.

THIS TIME OF YEAR the days tumble over one another and if I'm not careful I forget to look for the yellow roses before it's too late. I almost forgot the asparagus too, but luckily got distracted on the way to feed the chickens and found myself by the grape arbor instead, which is just in front of the asparagus bed. I actually gasped aloud when I saw the shoots, a few of them already two feet tall. Another day and they would have been beyond steaming, woody and branching out to feathery ferns. I set the scoop of chicken feed on the grass and snapped off the shoots. They will grow back, and I will snap them off every few days. Dragon tail soup for the next six weeks until I have to stop harvesting and let the plants recover.

Then my friend, Gayle, called. “Do you want some morel mushrooms?” she asked. “I found some in my yard, and I don't like mushrooms.” She cut them for me and I had a delicious stir fry, the greens of asparagus and broccoli made savory with the brown mushrooms and olive oil. Of course that reminded me that I need to get to the woods and see if it's too late for ramp—the wild leeks that grow so abundantly. I think it is too late. I'm afraid I have already missed most of the spring flowers—Dutchman's Breeches, Spring Beauty, Jack-in-the-Pulpit, Bluebell. Worse, I have missed the deadline for my Mother's Day musings. I should have been writing about this last week, but then the day was still just an abstraction, a vague, future event.

Grape Hyacinths

Today I am thinking of the yellow roses.

My task is to now gratefully recognize these gifts.
Inhale Beauty
Today I am thinking of the yellow roses that will come soon, and my mother, who used to have a lovely bed of climbing red roses by the front stoop. The roses were old-fashioned, more for rambling than cutting. As a child, I didn't appreciate them—thought their stems were too spindly, their thorns too sharp and close together. They were nothing like the florist variety, those tall elegant stems, like princesses standing straight up in a vase, demure face closed in a tight bud, or slightly open. These were messy and abundant, dropping petals and pollen, wild and uncontainable—sort of like my mother's children. Now in memory I see them in the sunshine (though they were on the north side of the house) two bushes out front, just full of crimson flowers. In my mind they will bloom all summer long. I'd like to drive past and see if they're still there, but afraid of how I'll feel if they're gone.

The roses and missed blooms have me thinking about my place as a daughter. I try to be a good one. Sometimes I think I achieve that; mostly I think I could do better. I could call more often, stop by for lunch once in awhile, offer my help with little projects. I think about those roses and the gifts my mother gave me. I'm told she taught me to read as a toddler, with flashcards attached to every conceivable noun in the house: table, chair, refrigerator, telephone, curtain, mother. After my children were born I once discovered an old reading workbook at a friend's house, and recognized instantly that it was the one my mother had used to teach me. Each letter had a mnemonic drawing to help a child remember the sound the letter made. H was for “Harry,” who was breathing heavily after running (“H-H-H-H”). He sat in chair made of a lower-case “h” to rest. Thumbing through that book brought home how many hours my mother must have spent reading to me and my brother and sisters.

My mother's gifts have informed who I am, not only as a daughter, but also as a sister, niece, friend, teacher, writer, and especially, mother. I know I could do better in those areas too, but here's the thing: What felt like instinct as I loved and cuddled and nurtured and disciplined and taught my own children was knowledge inherited, and inhaled at my mother's knee. My task now is to gratefully recognize those gifts and turn them back to my mother, and outward to the world.
Inhale Beauty; Exhale Peace; Blessed Be.

Mary Lucille Hays lives in Birdland near White Heath. She is interested in cycles and heritage and her own back yard. A week after Mother's Day she is still grateful for a loving mother.