My mom wouldn't say that she's a gardener, but that doesn't mean she hasn't tried. I'd say she's more of one than she admits to- she did help plant and maintain an entire vineyard, for Pete's sake. I remember having a plot of land next to our house in the country with seemingly endless amounts of okra. God, how I thought it was torture when she made us help her with it. I'm sure she gave up "family gardening time" after a few tries, because it was better to do it in quiet solitude than with our endless complaints.
She's always grown roses well, though. The roses in front of that house exploded with blooms and the plants grew large and wild. Roses are easy though, she'd say. (She's not very good at taking compliments.)
This week, I was planting the flower bed in front of my own house, and feeling so much peace, calm and earthy goodness. My mind wandered back to my childhood, to our house in Hamlin. I was young then, 5 or 6, which would make my brother around 2. I remember playing outside in the front yard by ourselves. I'm sure Mom was checking on us through the windows, but I wasn't cognizant of it. I can distinctly remember finding a Mason jar and picking every single petal off the blooming rose bushes in the front. Not just pulling the blooms off, which would have been bad enough, but destroying the roses- plucking them apart and putting them in the jar. We took the water hose and filled the remaining space in the jar, delighted as the many-colored petals spun and sloshed in the jar. It was our home-made snow globe, with petals instead of white flakes.
We couldn't wait to take it inside and show Mom. I can just see us standing there, wet shoes leaving footprints on the floor, dirt-caked knees, and proud smiles. "We made you something!" we proclaimed, holding the gift aloft like the treasure that it was.
And I can imagine what it would be like to be the parent to those kids, who were probably sent outside to give their mother a moment's peace. I can imagine many reactions from a scolding for ruining the flowers to a curt 'thank-you' through gritted teeth. A sigh, maybe. But not my mom. I remember how she gushed, how she acted as if we were brilliant, as if we'd created the rose bush itself- instead of taking a big step toward destroying it.
My mom has a gift of seeing past circumstances into the hearts of people. I think it's maybe the most important gift that a person can have, because it is hearts that really matter and not circumstances. Being in those shoes now, parenting small children, I can see that motherhood is continual practice in this. It's so easy to get carried away in the circumstances of dishes and laundry, yard work and housework. It's too easy to bring the stress from work back home. It's easy to get snappy with bickering children.
It's not easy to stay calm when everything feels like it is exploding with toys or muddy footprints or ungracious words. I don't always stay calm in those situations, and neither did she. But motherhood is an endless amount of tries. That day with the rose petals, she was gracious and perceptive, two words that I think describe her most days. And these days, when the mother's heart inside my own chest gets buried beneath the roiling circumstances of the day, I try to breathe and remember the rose petal jar.