The white chrysanthemum is doing its faithful blooming again. It’s that time of the year. But this particular plant has a long history. It used to belong to my mother. She died in March of 1982 at the age of 69. She had this very chrysanthemum hanging in a basket on her back veranda, and since chrysanthemums bloom in the fall, I can assume that she bought it some time in 1981 or earlier, at least 41 years ago.
My dad asked if I wanted to take the plant home because it would just die. He was no gardener. So the chrysanthemum came home with me in 1982. Every year since then, it has bloomed in the fall. I think of my mother more often than just at chrysanthemum time, but when I glance at the flowers on my deck, I find there is some connection to her.
Last year I realized I’d been greedy about this plant and since it was crowded in the pot, I shared part of the plant with my sister. She now has some of this plant in her garden. I worried a little bit that by dividing the plant I might have killed it, but it came back as cheerily as ever this year.
I’d like to share some of my mother’s traits with you.
She loved her children.
She loved to laugh and tease in a kind way. And she loved puns.
She had a beautiful singing voice and loved music.
She could cook and bake great food without a recipe.
She taught us to keep ourselves and our house clean.
If one of us kids were in a nasty mood, she’d say, “Go find some place out of this room, and come back when you can smile.”
But if we had a problem that needed solving, she was always there to listen and most of all to give us a hug.
She made us pitch in to help with chores. I learned a lot about cooking from being her helper in the kitchen. I can still hear her telling me not to leave the wooden spoon in the pot or pan. “Don’t cook the wooden spoon,” she’d say.
She was kind to animals. We always had pets – dogs, cats, turtles, tropical fish, gerbils – and they had a good life in our house.
She was a “nurse” without official training, taking care of all our aches, pains, and illnesses, as well as those of our pets. When our cat had trouble closing its jaw, I watched as my mother reached way back into the cat’s mouth, and pulled a fish backbone (a vertebra – like a tiny spool of thread) off the cat’s back tooth where it had become stuck. The moment the cat felt that the bone was removed, she licked my mother’s hand to say thank you over and over.
She encouraged me about school. Every single day, as I left for school, she told me, “Listen to the teacher and be good.”
About my schoolwork she told me, “Every day when you do your work, turn the page and look at yesterday’s work. Then start today’s work and try to do it better than yesterday’s.”
I never saw her lie down for a nap. There was always work to do. Sometimes at night if the bedroom light was on as I tip-toed past on my way to the bathroom, I would see her reading in bed, and as often as not, her eyes would be closed. She’d had a full day.
She didn’t have a long life, but she sure packed a lot into the life she had, and she made the world a better place when she was in it.
So I’m always happy to see that her chrysanthemum, the very same plant, still blooms for her and has done for forty years.