Saturday, May 11, 2013
Of Lilacs, Mothers' Day & Old Stone Walks
This day before Mothers' Day has been cloudy and showery; in the morning I watched my little grandson play soccer, then came home with the intention of weeding my gardens. Instead, I puttered in the house -- dusting, doing laundry, running the vacuum -- and headed outside to cut some lilacs. Nothing can compare to the beauty and scent of lilacs. I love the sensual feeling of gathering them in my arms, their lovely perfume filling my heart with springtime, and the profusion of blossoms overwhelming my soul. Choosing a vase, filling it with slightly warm water, preparing the stems, and finally immersing my armful of beauty in the chosen vessel is a peaceful pursuit. Lilac season is short, so this pleasure is one we must hold closely while it lasts.
Lilacs and Mothers' Day go hand-in-hand in upstate New York. For years I set the table for Mothers' Day dinner with a centerpiece of lilacs or tulips from the garden. As I gathered my lilacs today, I reminisced about this celebration of motherhood. My first memory is of buying earrings for my mother and grandmother at some type of sale at my elementary school -- how proud I was to be able to really surprise them with these gifts. As I went through my mother's jewelry box after her death, I found these earrings tucked away -- a gentle reminder of her love for me.
My next vivid memory is of the Mothers' Day when my son was six months old. I had experienced difficulties getting pregnant, and then my first baby daughter was stillborn in 1974; the birth of my son in 1975 was the happiest day of my life, and the first Mothers' Day when I finally had my precious child in my arms was a day I looked forward to with a full heart. However, that morning I woke to no card, no flowers, no "Happy Mothers' Day." Apparently my husband didn't realize how much this day meant to me. Later, as I walked outside with my son in my arms, my neighbor called over, "Happy Mothers' Day;" he never knew what a gift his greeting was to this disappointed new mother.
There have been many sad Mothers' Days since then -- the year after my grandmother died, and after my mother's death, and the more recent death of my mother-in-law. We live through these sad days and move on. This day for me is a reminder of the deep joy I have received in the process of mothering these precious children of mine, and now the joy of being a grandmother. As we grow older, the holiday becomes bittersweet for us, as we balance missing our own mothers against the pure love we experience ourselves as mothers and grandmothers.
Life itself becomes bittersweet as we age. We sift through our memories and sometimes realize that the sad ones outnumber the happy ones. We find our bodies beginning to disappoint us -- did our baby boomer generation really believe we would stay forever young? Our minds begin to fail us occasionally, our energy lessens, and our joints begin to stiffen and ache -- how can this be?? This wasn't supposed to happen to us. How naive we were.
Twenty or so years ago, a friend gave me some leftover stones from a greenhouse he was building. I decided to use them for a little garden path. My husband dug out the path, and I laid the stones myself -- placing and moving them to achieve the haphazard pattern I desired, and then tucking them gently into the soil. What a lovely path it was, and how much I have enjoyed it all these years. In the past couple of years, though, the roots from the shady maple nearby began to push up on several of the stones, leaving the path uneven and rough -- much too uneven for my stiff old legs. Last year I took quite a tumble as I tripped on one of the stones.
Finally, last week, I tripped again and almost fell; with heavy heart, I decided that my lovely stone walk needed to be replaced with something more even and secure. The day they were removing the stones, I went out early in the morning to take some final photos of my path. I'm sure the new path will be beautiful, and will be designed to fit in with my unstructured landscape. I will be happy with it, and much more sure-footed as I walk out each morning to feed my birds. But, I am glad I have the photos, and I will treasure the memories of my old stone walk.
Life moves on -- some things are constant in our lives, as are the lilacs and Mothers' Day in May. Others are more transient, and once gone, they are gone forever. It is our choice whether we spend our days mourning our losses or savoring our blessings. It means the difference between bitterness and contentment, and I definitely prefer to be content.