It is spring and the weeds, grown strong and well-fed from a winter’s worth of rain, are asserting their place in my yard. I know that to make room for my big garden dreams I have to pull out the determined roots of these humble plants. But as I contemplate the task, I wonder why we have chosen the weeds and not the flowers for some of the most treasured of the small rituals we share with our children?
We hold buttercups under their chins. “Yes, you like butter.” I have always, every time, loved how sweet that skin is, so soft and hidden, glowing golden under the smiles.
We teach them to make wishes on dandelions. “Close your eyes. Blow!” And so we send the seeds on their tiny delicate parachutes twirling through the air currents, nature’s insurance policies piggybacking on our children’s secret hopes.
We look with quiet footsteps for lucky four-leaf clovers. And they are magical, those soft beds of tender green leaves and sweet raggedy pompoms.
We say: “You are growing like a weed.”
And so they are, and so they do.
They are so fleeting, these moments. We know this, but they slip away anyway in the wake of the next thing, the popsicle in the freezer, the bike to learn to ride. We root out the weeds to make room for the roses.
The bees too love the buttercup, the dandelion, and the clover. My neighbors pull out, poison, banish these insistent invaders from their gardens and lawns and I do too when they threaten, like the buttercup do, to choke out the strawberries and the chives. I feel sorry though that I am depriving the bees of their pollen and us of opportunities for small magic. Part of me wants to encourage a few shoots to go rogue under fences and into park edges so we can forever and always remember to make daisy chains with our children, to wish on dandelions, and look for the luck hiding in patches of clover.
She let go of the chords that tethered her here. At 96, my grandmother had lived fiercely and well. She wore her lipstick firmly in place to the end. When dignity threatened to escape her grasp she held fast to her not-inconsiderable opinions. Her blue eyes, a little faded, newly shadowed, could nevertheless still blaze. She stunned me not by dying, but by doing it, right to her last moments, on her terms.
Clearing out the medicine cabinet, considering the worn slippers which still hold the imprint of her footsteps, emptying a home of the life that has been thoroughly lived even if that life has mostly now been contained in two rooms and stiffening photo albums, is to sift through many strata of emotion. But I am from strong stock. From women with great legs who know how to clean a stall and wear a silk scarf, from women who know how to re-invent themselves, from women who savour the fun and drain the glass, who fully inhabit their rooms and their lives. So I bade my grandmother farewell the best way I knew how, with lipstick on and my sleeves rolled up.
These are the events in our lives that remind us of what is important. “To every season” go those familiar verses, even if it feels cruel that the seasons should continue to turn when time as we know it has stopped for those we have loved. Sometimes when I look for my mother and find her gone, still gone, the ground opens and I fall into the gap. What I feel this time is the ground shifting beneath my feet, the irises fighting their way inevitably through the soil. Matrilineally bereft, I must nevertheless continue to move forward into this new spring.
Our mothers teach us the language our hearts first learn. Now I am trusting my heart to help my feet find their way so that my daughter will in turn find hers.
Have you had to find your way as a mother without your own? And if so, what has helped you walk on?