Mary insisted on wearing matching dresses to church. Pulling my navy dress from the closet for her approval, she creased her freckled nose and said, “No, something bright. Where’s your rose dress?”
Forgotten behind my black coat and woolen sweaters, hung the rose dress– slightly wrinkly, saturated with memories. I wore it on that rainy, last minute flight to San Diego; when I walked into the room my mother exclaimed and lifted up from her bed. Speech had departed her, but she knew me and caressed my hair as I lay my head on her chest. Through that evening and into the night I stayed at her side, gripping her hand as she writhed in agony. I was still wearing it, lying at her feet, when she drew her last breath in the fine hours of the morning. By then the dress was soaked with blood and sweat, but I washed it and wore it four days later as I spoke at her funeral.
Really, there could be nothing more poetic to wear today. I also clutched my red purse.
Just days after my mother’s death, even before the funeral, my Segullah friends sent me a card, a cake and a gift certificate to a garden store. Like me, my writer friends love symbols, and nothing represents my mother like the garden. The consummate gardener, she dispensed advice freely and shared perennial starts. By chance, I saw four of her best friends last week. Even as they approached me I began to tear up. They ran to me, embraced my shaking shoulders and each one said, “As I work in my garden, I think of your mother.”
I’ve been to the garden store a dozen times in the last 10 months, wandering the aisles, inquiring after citrus trees, searching for the perfect thing. Surely I’ve overthought it.
But yesterday (the week before Mother’s Day has the best selection of the year– my mother taught me that), I made my decision in a matter of minutes: a fragrant lime tree to grace the porch in the summer and fill our winter rooms with it’s intoxicating scent, and a espaliered pear to flower and stretch across the western fence. Enamored by their elegance and efficiency, my mother bordered her yard with espaliered fruits.
This is my mother’s face that filled my dreams last night. It was the sort of nightvision when you know you are dreaming, but don’t want it to end. But the emotion of watching her talk and laugh when I knew she was gone was too much for me. I began to sob and woke with a start.
Studying her fresh young features I want to warn her from the challenges ahead of her. I wonder how different things might have been if she hadn’t taken that phone call or if she’d stayed home on that icy winter day? How calm and easy the path of my childhood and her life might have wandered. But it was the difficult tasks that created the woman, the mother, I love and it was also those trials that formed my character and my mothering abilities.
Like the lime torn from it’s native climate and the pear tree pruned and molded with it’s arms extended, I pray her efforts bear fruit.
Please, let them bear fruit.