Sunday, May 10, 2015

Mother's Day Flowers

The velvety petunias, a sultry deep purple, hanging on the arbor in my patio in northern California, here, now, remind me of those others long ago in Santa Fe, in my mother’s front flower bed below the porch.  Remind me of how horrified my mother was that day when—either under her orders or in a moment of offhanded kindness, seeing something that needed doing and wanting to help—the neighbor lady from across the street and I picked off all of the spent petunia flowers from her tidy row of plants, there every summer for the neighborhood to see.

Only we didn’t know the nature of petunias, then, either of us, and ended up picking all of the new buds off, because they’re the same general shape, softly wrinkled and tubular, as the blooms that are done blooming for good.

How could I know?

How couldn’t I?

For all the ways I let my mother down over the years—failure to see, impatience, clumsiness—I’m sorry and I’m sad.  Learning the world and its beings (ourselves maybe, always, above all) has at its heart the indelible tragedy of failed attempts, of well-meaning not good enough, of those buds picked unwittingly too soon.

That purple carries the beauty of heartbreak within its joyful wholehearted beauty; and the pungent smell of the (yes, really) wilted flowers which I’ve picked just now, with infinite and rueful care, is redolent of the losses that fill every moment to the brim, spilling over, releasing the anguish that is always one but not the only essential part of the whole.  Absolving.

For in the end, I’m sure, my mother laughed.  After the scolding and the exclamations of how stupid we had been, it all came right again, and from disgrace came grace in moving on, seeing the pain and loss informing the next buds.

image:  Christie B. Cochrell, Purple Petunias


  1. this brought my tears.
    perhaps of my own moments in time.
    but captured well the fact that i can't enjoy cut flowers in a vase. not that this was about that...
    but i hear my gram's voice...
    leave the little thing alone. enjoy it alive.
    even though now i realize that people who grow such things 'dead head' for new growth...
    i heard my gram's voice in your story. xo♥

  2. I have another friend who won't let people give her cut flowers, "because they die." I agree that they're better in nature, where they typically (barring acts like mine!) die less quickly. Your Gram sounds like a dear person; thank you for introducing us.