I spent Mother’s Day this year doing something I really hate! Gardening! I have many friends and family who love to garden. I don’t! Some think gardening is a spiritual experience. I don’t!
But after a recent trip to England where the flowers are abundant and the gardens are spectacular I decided that I needed to beautify my very small outdoor space.
My Granny Cox was an avid gardener. She had an enormous vegetable garden filled with every kind of vegetable known to man. All other available plots of earth were turned into flower beds. She loved irises the most. I used to spend the summers with her in South Carolina. One of my daily chores was to help her tend her gardens.
Granny: Take this bucket and pick some green beans for dinner.
Me: I hate picking beans because there are black widow spiders under the leaves.
Granny: Then go pick corn.
Me: The stalks are too tall and I’m too short. I’ll need a ladder.
Granny: Then pick some squash.
Me: Too prickly.
Granny: Then pick blueberries.
Me: Too many bees.
Granny: Then go dig potatoes!
I tried but I never could get out of helping her. I loved the cooking part, and the eating part, and the canning part. The indoors where it’s cool and I won’t get dirty and sweaty part! I would wash dishes all day long if I could just get out of helping in that garden. I really hated the gardening part.
And yet, yesterday of all days, I decided to plant flowers. We got up in the morning and headed straight to Lowe’s. I’ve wanted a hydrangea bush in the worst way for the longest time and I bought the BIGGEST hydrangea I could find. I also purchased day lilies and colorful annuals. I was ready to plant! I was excited! This would be great! I could do this. I had experience after all! Just dig a few holes and stick some flowers in them.
(Before – Weedy mess!)
The little dirt patch I had to work with is at the bottom of the steps from my front door. At most it is a three foot by four foot rectangle. Part of that space is taken up by a big grassy plant and a gas “thingy”. So my work space was not that big. I just had to keep my shovel away from that gas “thingy”. I started to dig the big hole for the hydrangea first. Nothing! Why wasn’t my shovel doing anything? I hammered it. I stomped on it. Nothing! If you watch the tv show “Modern Family” then you know what Claire sounds like when she yells for Phil to do something. That was me. Paul! Paul! Paul!
Me: I can’t get this shovel to work. There’s something BIG in the way. I think it’s a big tree stump growing under the house. Why did I even come up with this idea of planting a bush. I could be sitting on the beach. I could be relaxing. And on and on and on…
Paul: Umm. Honey. That’s the water pipe to our house and not a tree stump. Let me just go check and make sure there are no leaks anywhere… I’ll be right back. (In his usual voice of calmness and serenity). It’s going to be alright. All we have to do is move the hole for the hydrangea just two inches to the left.
Me: The instructions say to dig the hole 1 1/2 times the size of the pot. We won’t have room to do that if we move the hole two inches. Why did I buy such a big hydrangea. I should have bought the smaller one. And on and on and on…
Paul: It’s going to be fine. I’ll dig and you just decide when the hole is big enough.
Me: Granny Cox didn’t need instructions. She just knew what to do.
The hydrangea was successfully planted and Paul said I was clear to plant the rest of flowers wherever I wanted. Even on top of the water pipe. So I took my little trowel to dig little holes for the little flowers that remained. Nothing! Why isn’t this trowel working?! Under the small layer of dirt there were millions of roots and rocks and sticks. Plus lots of slimy earthworms. Ugh! Gardening was not supposed to be this hard or disgusting!
Me: Paul! Paul! (My sweetheart comes running as he always does when I yell because he is wonderful and patient and kind and caring and loves me even though and especially when I am a grouch). This is too hard. What was I thinking. I should have paid more attention to my Granny. If she can see me now she is laughing her head off. I didn’t learn anything from her. I don’t want to plant flowers on Mother’s Day. I want to hug my boys, and see my Granny again and drink mimosas with my neighbor and wear a cute floppy hat and cool Hollywood shades like my other neighbor and go on a picnic…
Paul: Then go dig potatoes…
So I sat out there and pulled out roots and sticks and rocks. And I thought about my Granny. I dug little holes. And I thought about my Granny. I gently moved the hardworking earthworms to other places where they could build a new home since I ruined theirs. And I thought about my Granny. I abused a few little flowers. And I heard my Granny say Be gentle. They’re just babies. They’re fragile. I gently put the baby flowers in their baby holes.
When I had planted the last little marigold I had a garden. I lovingly watered my little flowers and whispered please don’t die, please grow. Watering was always my favorite garden chore at Granny’s house. I would be the first in line with my hand raised high for THAT job. The nurturing and watching them grow job. The mothering job.
(After – Flowers. It’s a good start!)
I spent my entire Mother’s Day with my Granny Cox. I thought of her and I worked on my little flower bed with her and I talked to her. I could feel her encouraging me. She stayed by my side and helped me feel less sad about missing my own little boys. It was very spiritual and I remembered…
I remembered sitting on her back porch at the picnic table and eating fried squash and cold, juicy cantaloupe and the best Kentucky runner green beans in the world. I remembered swinging on the swing surrounded by purple irises and watching the figs grow on the fig tree as I lazily took in the warm sun and sweet smells of summer. I remember using her huge vegetable garden as the forest that the yellow brick road passed through to get to the “Emerald City” while acting out the “Wizard of Oz” with my summertime friends. I remembered playing croquet in the front yard and setting up a really tough obstacle course amongst the dogwoods and crepe myrtles. I remembered running through the sprinklers to cool off. My Granny was always there, watching over me, while lovingly caring for her plants.
My Granny has been gone for 20 years now. I miss her. What I wouldn’t give to be that twelve year old little girl working side by side in the garden with her again. I would pick every bean and gladly take a few black widow spider bites. And I would never, ever complain about having to dig potatoes.
Gardening was her spiritual practice that filled her soul with happiness. I did not learn how to garden like my Granny. The most important lesson that she taught me was how to nurture and how to mother.
I love you Dorothy Mae Cox. Thanks for spending Mother’s Day with me. Your grateful granddaughter and namesake – Dorothy Gaye.