Our son loves to visit his Grandma and Grandpa. He especially likes to bring his Grandma a bouquet of flowers. We stop at the local grocery store, and after examining the selection of discounted bouquets, he selects one — generally roses, preferably yellow.
He clutches the bundle as we go through check out and he eagerly scampers to ring the doorbell once we arrive at Grandma’s home. When my mother answers the door, he proudly presents his token to her.
Whether she realizes it or not, every time we visit, he trots into the kitchen to see if there are flowers on the table. Once he is satisfied, her kitchen is appropriately adorned, he goes off to play with her dog, or to greet Grandpa.
Our last visit, we did not take flowers because mom had shared that she has plenty from her garden. So, when Sparky went to inspect the kitchen table, I waited to see his reaction. He returned with an expression of relief on his face, announcing Grandma had a purple flower, which was good enough for him.
Mom had a single gladiolus sprig in a golden bud vase. It was a lovely shade of purple shot through with white. While the flowers themselves were perfect, the stem was slightly crooked, just a bit of a dogleg kink marring its perfection.
Her flowerbed has a neat row of gladioli’s, their green leaves poker straight and most of the stems arrow-like as they stretch toward the sun. Different colors are just starting to peek through the tightly wrapped petals. I grinned as I remembered my Grandma’s garden and the rows of flowers, she too planted. Each year she would hammer away at that hard clay soil with a hoe.
In the fall, Grandpa would dump a load of cow manure on the garden, plow it under to let it rot all winter. In the spring Grandma would be in that garden, wearing her housedress, apron, and bonnet. Hacking away at those tough clods of soil. There were usually three rows of flowers, carefully spaced and staked to promote perfectly straight stems.
It would frustrate her to no end, that those same blooms had their own plans for how they would grow. Nevertheless, she would have a big vase filled with these imperfect beauties on her buffet in the dining room, she would carefully arrange them to show to advantage, while fussing over how crooked they were.
Occasionally she would gift a bouquet to a special friend or to her sister-in-law if she had flowers which she thought were especially nice. She had learned about growing these flowers, from her father; an individual with whom she had a challenging relationship. He had cultivated the same flowers and sold them to a local florist as a means of additional funds. I imagine she had taken over the task of caring for the plants when she was rather young.
Her father had refused to pay for advance schooling for Grandma, considering an eighth grade education more than adequate for a girl. At the age of 14, she would have left school, never to return. Her mother had died when Grandma was young, so she slowly took on more and more of the household responsibilities as she grew older, the garden would have fallen under her chores. Perhaps she and Great-Grandpa spent time working together, finding common ground, so to speak.
Regardless, I remember every spring those flowers would be carefully planted and every fall, the bulbs dug up and carefully stored for the winter in a burlap feedbag, down in the basement.
I tried to grow those flowers. Once. They looked like little arches, they were so bent and misshapen. Bugs chewed the leaves and the blossoms sort of fell off, probably from humiliation. Someday, I will try growing them again. Probably.
In the meantime, I will enjoy mom’s flowers and will remember Grandma fussing over their imperfections the same way mom does, and the same way I will no doubt, also do so.
Written and submitted by Sarah Roush for The Circleville Herald. The views of this column may not necessarily reflect that of the newspaper.