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A Mother’s Day Gift

By Lori Moline 

After a long, harsh Minnesota winter, the sounds of birds, and the sight of greenery and flowers are like a transfusion of hope- That’s why one of our family’s favorite activities is the annual trek to the local greenhouse and plant store.  This year, with everyone else busy with other things, Sophie and I went alone, just the two of us, to scope out what we wanted to plant, and get some thoughts of how much this endeavor was going to cost. I’ve never been much of a gardener. As a matter of fact, I can pretty much kill even the most expensive pot of glorious blooms with very little trouble. That, however, has never dampened our enthusiasm, or caused us to shy away from the effort.  Yearly we anticipate our Nursery adventure, and trudge on with a smile despite our possibly (typically?) questionable results.

We arrived around eleven, and the place was crowded with shoppers and plants of every color and style. We were having so much fun, shopping, laughing and planning… and then I saw it.  Another mom with a teen daughter just about Sophie’ age. All of those early, new-diagnosis feelings came flooding back like a storm. I had to stop pushing my cart full of dahlias for a moment and catch my breath.  Fighting the strange urge to cry, I began to think of how like these flowers my daughter is… Beautiful, sweet, strong in appearance, but inside so very fragile- needing environmental controls and just the right measure of this-and-that (and some seriously crossed fingers) to grow and thrive and hopefully to be successful. And here, in the midst of my springtime sanctuary was another mom and daughter pair… this time with a daughter fit and healthy, looking athletic  in her cute tennis outfit. If my daughter was a hot-house flower, then this young lady was a strong, perennial lilac bush, programmed from the beginning to grow and bloom without much effort- without the fuss and maintenance a delicate flower requires.  It was hard, for just a moment, not to be jealous- just like it’s a little hard not to be jealous of my neighbors lilacs, already beginning to bloom, and ready to spread their heavenly smell throughout the neighborhood.  I wondered what on earth the Creator was thinking when He gave me, a confirmed lousy gardener, full charge and responsibility for the most delicate flower in the greenhouse….

“Hey Mom”- Sophie’s shout jarred me back to reality. She had been off exploring while I was musing, and she discovered pansies that exactly matched the pale orange dahlias in my cart. “Won’t these look awesome in the pots by the garage?”  Her enthusiasm was contagious, and soon we were off again, back to laughing and planning. I thought again of what a gift she is to me, and to the entire world- She may be delicate and a bit high-maintenance, but her sweetness and the simple beauty of her spirit make up for it all.  As we headed for the checkout line, I spied the other mom again.  Suddenly, she and her strong, perennial daughter didn’t seem to be having as much fun as we were. Miss Sturdy Lilac Bush was getting tired of walking the endless aisles of hosta and verbena, and was now irately texting on her phone. This time, I had to struggle not to feel a teensy pinch of smug satisfaction. While this wild lilac of a girl had the potential to take the garden by storm, she didn’t need the tender touch of the gardener the way my hot-house flower does.  The bond between this lilac bush of a girl and her gardener/mother was obviously very different than Sophie’s and mine. Not necessarily better, not necessarily worse, just very different. I realized in that moment that I would not trade my sweet smiling flower for all the lilac bushes in the land…

The work and careful care it takes to produce such a tiny fragile sprout, coax it to grow and bloom, and tend to it as it flourishes, is what forges the bond between garden and gardener, and that bond is the most precious gift I could have ever received. “Mom- you really need to pay for this stuff- People are waiting!” Oops… Once again, reality intruded on my introspection- and once again my hot-house flower showed a bit of her tenacity. Maybe, just maybe, it’s me that actually needs HER? Maybe, that’s what being a gardener (or a mother) is really all about…

Well played, Creator. Well played.

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