As I was growing up in the “winter garden” that is the Rio Grande Valley in deep South Texas, my mother had the most beautiful gardens in the whole town. Herself, a “transplant” in the River Valley, somehow she found ways to make flowers, citrus, fruits and vegetables grow in those “in town” flower beds, and vegetable gardens.
Her “green thumb” was the envy of the stay-at-home housewives and mothers in that little bedroom community of the 1960’s. Snap dragons, zinnias, Boston fern, sunflowers, Texas Blue-Bonnets, Irish Bells, pansies, daisies, carnations, Easter Lillies, Day Lillies, and Cannas were just a few of the myriad of blooming plants and greenery she cultivated there!
By the time I went to school, I was “well aware” of the iconic nature (and esteemed value) of the beautiful blossoms that I’d grown up with and taken for granted before then. I walked to school every day, and on occasion, I took “fresh cut flowers” to my Elementary School teachers when I wanted to impress them, or I was running late!
I was seven years old, and one morning, I dallied longer over breakfast than I should have, and realizing I was running VERY VERY LATE, I quickly grabbed up yesterday’s newspaper and some gardening shears that hung in the kitchen. I called for my mother from the living room, and begged for her help! I remember she laughed out loud, and then hurried outside to the garden to help me gather the most magnificent arrangement of flowers I’d ever seen her put together. The stems were all long and leggy, the bundle was so big that I had a difficult time seeing around it to get down the long road (all of four blocks) to school! I hurried through the front doors which sat open, and Mrs. Thompkins (our PRINCIPAL) came out to meet me! Oh, my! I KNEW I WAS IN TROUBLE!
We lived in a small town. Everyone knew everyone. Mrs. Thompkins smiled, and took the newspaper wrapped bundle of flowers from my little arms. “Follow me,” she said. I followed her into her office, knowing full-well she was about to call my mother, which she did. And she thanked her for the ‘most exquisite bouquet’ that had ever been sent to her. She had single-handedly, commandeered the “penance-in-advance” token of flora, intended for my 2nd grade teacher!
She hung up the phone, and pulled out a large crystal vase from a drawer in her desk. Pouring water from the pitcher that sat by her desk clock, she filled the vase and placed the flowers one-at-a-time into the vase, adeptly arranging them with care. Then she took a snapdragon, a zinnia, three Gerber daisies, and two Irish Bells, clipped them off at the bottom and set them aside.
Then she did something that will stay with me for the rest of my life. You see, she was the Principal at Thomas Jefferson Elementary, but she was also the School District’s calligrapher. She took a manila folder and cut it so that it would sit on the table in front of the crystal vase of fresh cut flowers, and she wrote the most beautiful words I’d ever seen in print: “Compliments of : ‘Martha’s Garden'”
Mrs. Thompkins gave me a hug, and the handfull of flowers she had set aside, and said, “If you take these and hurry, Mrs. Vacker might not mark you absent!”
IT is because of Martha, my mother that:
I love POETRY!
I love Photography!
I love nature, flora and fauna!
I have an appreciation for
“all things wild and wonderful,
all things great and small,”
that I got from my mother, Martha.
She still provides me daily with:
I wouldn’t trade anything for
my life in
Thank you, Mom!