2021: F – April A to Z:
Mama in Photos…
I’m back for my sixth year (2021)… can you believe it… of participating in the yearly April A to Z challenge… and I’ve had quite a time in deciding on my “theme.” I had a few running through my head, but after losing my mother last November, I thought I’d honor her through the many photographs I have… and tell the story of the photograph… as every photo has a story.
I’m fortunate that my mother had many photos of herself growing up… and I’m honoring her this year as the theme of my April A to Z… especially as was she was an April baby. Mama would have turned 91 this year… but she’s now back home celebrating this birthday with her parents and brother on the farm… where I believe she was always the happiest. The past few years my mother was fighting off dementia, while still managing to live alone until the last couple months of her life. I miss her every day… thinking and remembering all she did for me. She was the storyteller… She supplied me with my stories… and it’s because of her, that I write!
F… Flowers Flowers Everywhere
One of the last flower bouquets I sent mama a few years ago when she went to rehab. She had fallen in the house, telling me weeks later. At that time she had seemed ok, but a few weeks later she called 911 one morning when she felt she couldn’t breathe well. From that fall she had fractured her back and it began pressing on her lungs… we persuaded her to go into rehab to get back to walking better. She fussed with them there, but one young man would chat with her during the day and eventually he’d talk her into therapy… she never lost of stubborness of doing only what she wanted to do… but I don’t think she ever could refuse a young mans attention!
I don’t remember my mother being much of a gardner in growing up, but there always seemed to be an Ola Lilly in our yard. Mama told me that she planted one at the back door of every house we lived in. It wasn’t until she left the farm to live in Monroe, that she seemed to take an interest in gardening. In asking her once, she said… “I became interested in gardening after I gave up smoking and coffee.”
Most everything planted in mama’s yard were taken from hijacked cuttings she somehow acquired or given to her. She was never bashful in asking for a cutting. I remember once we stopped at a nursery while out and she asked a young boy working there if she could cut a small flower branch off something she had spotted… that she didn’t have. While I felt a little embarrassed and walked away, he didn’t bat an eye in telling her “oh yes, no problem.” If that had been at a nursery up North, I doubt they would have been that nice and gracious. People are so very different in the South vs the North. They’ll hello whether they know you or not… and whenever you walk into their stores… you are immediately greeted and hear “nice weather today” or “boy is it hot out today.” They treat you like they know you! And if mama was with us… she kept that chat going!
Mama in front of the James Madison Hotel in Madison, Georgia… she had spotted this black Elephant Ear plant and so wanted a piece… and in her flip flops! If she had had her way, she would have thought nothing of going inside and asking is she could take a cutting, but that might have meant getting her shovel from the car and digging up a bulb… but she would have. I told her lets just take a photo instead… she gave him but wasn’t happy.
I loved mama’s Hydrangeas planted on the side of her house along the brick walkway she created. They were all rooted from just simply sticking a branch in her rich soil. She’d say, “just tamp a deep hole down and stick the branch in… and leave it alone.” As I dug up some Ola Lilies and Amaralysis to take to Stephen in Florida, I saw how rich her soil still was. Once a young boy knocked on her door around Mother’s Day and asked if he could pick flowers to give to his Mother… she told him “oh yes, pick her a nice bouquet.” He left skipping down the street headed to give his mother those flowers. I wonder what his mother thought when he suddenly appeared with all those flowers for her.
Several people have stopped to ask for flowers from her yard. At another time she had someone knock on the door asking if they could pick flowers to make a wedding bouquet… and as usual, the answer was always yes. I asked mama once, “why do they knock on your door all the time“… “because I’m the only one who seems to have flowers in their yard.” But the funniest story was when she came out one morning to discover holes in her flower gardens… someone had come late or early and dug up some of her flowers leaving very noticeable holes! She was so outraged that she called the police. I have to admit I did laugh when she told me, but she was still mad about it even by nighttime when I talked to her. I’m sure she bent that officers ear… and they knew she wouldn’t play games with whomever dug those holes. A couple of years ago on one of our nightly calls, she said… “well, I finally found out who stole my flowers. At the senior center this morning a woman happened to mention that her grandsons had brought home some plants one time that they thought was marijuana and how she had yelled at them for taking them from someone’s yard.” Well, it didn’t take long for mama to voice some words there… bringing her back to that day… still being mad. What they had stole was Cleome’s and I told her that when they are first growing, yes they do look like them. I’m glad mama didn’t know that when she talked to the police… as they might have rambled through her gardens looking for just that!
While in Georgia recently, I walked by a seed display and picked out some of mama’s favorites to take home to plant. One I bought, Zinnia’s, was never her favorite and I remember her telling me how she didn’t like them… saying how the old women called them “old maid plants”… makes me wonder why they said that!
I’ve never seen mama’s yard in full bloom and often asked her to take photos for me with one of those disposable cameras and mail to me… but I’d always hear, “just come down here when everything is in bloom, I can’t take pictures.” We usually were there by the first week in June but we always missed many of them.
Mama never forgot her mothers white rose… remembering it being the prettiest rose she’d ever seen when it bloomed. Someone had given it to my grandmother and she planted it alongside the driveway. It finally died out but not before mama said she picked the prettiest bloom the morning she buried her first daughter, who died as a baby. She took that bloom and laid it in Monica’s casket. I wish I could plant a white rose bush at her gravesite, but I will plant one in my garden and scatter a few of her ashes alongside… so she can watch over it.
I brought mama a Joseph’s Coat rose bush one year… bringing it all the way from Connecticut; she had mentioned she’d seen one in someone’s yard, so I knew she wanted one. It took some searching, but I finally found them, buying one for myself also. It was beautiful when it bloomed as the roses change colors in ageing… so at one time it wasn’t unusual to see several colors on the bush at one time. It didn’t take mama long before she rooted several more to place around her yard.
On one nightly conversation mama told me that a woman stopped by from the local woman’s garden club… asking if she would host her yard for a walk through. Mama was like, “just come anytime you want,” but she wasn’t interested in walking them around and discussing flowers. I always wondered if anyone came, but she never mentioned it again. In cleaning through her papers, I did find a certificate they awarded her on her gardens. Mama never minded anyone stopping and asking if they could look at her flowers… and they never left empty-handed. She enjoyed giving flowers to anyone who asked… out would came her shovel very quickly.
It’s been many years since I’ve seen flowers bloomed at the front door garden… notice the mailbox by the lattice… inside you’d find digging tools, seed packets and gloves… although she never wore gloves… she couldn’t be bothered in taking the time to put them on. I’d say to her how she should wear them, but she’d laugh and tell me, “they have soap and water to remedy dirty hands.”
One of mama’s favorite flowers was always Sweet Williams… but what she didn’t like was having to replant by seeds yearly to enjoy them. I used to tell her she could buy them as plants, but she always thought that a waste of money. She loved flowers, but she didn’t like having to replant yearly, she enjoyed them coming back by themselves… she wasn’t going to spend money every year to rebuy them. I was amazed the first time I realized that her Impatiens came back by themselves there… as in CT, I have to buy them yearly. I wish I had thought to take more pictures of mama’s flowers! My husband remembers how I’d always return home more energetic to plant flowers after returning from my visit, but I never had the love for gardening as she did. The neighbors told me how she would be outside early in the mornings when they left for work, and they’d return to see her still outside in her gardens. I’ve always told her how she has much more energy than I ever had… but that was her only hobby. Once she came in, she only wanted to lay in bed and watch TV. She was never one for sitting on a couch… and she’d quickly tell you that she wasn’t going to do that.
Mama had beautiful Hollyhocks of various colors in her yard…. and I was always so envious as mine didn’t often come back like hers. I did manage to grow some from seeds, but never as many as she did. This color of crimson red here was always my favorite. Their stalks could often grow as high as 6-feet tall.
In the center of the yard she grew her famous Angel Trumpets… they would droop with many many trumpets in full bloom. She’d laugh about how easy they were to grow…. saying, “in the fall when you cut the heavy stalks down, just take a 5-inch stalk cutting and dig a trench, and lay it in… and it will grow another plant in the spring.” She could never understand how anyone couldn’t follow her directions and grow flowers as she did! The yellow Black-eyed Susans were always one of my favorites.
I created this frame one year… it brings back many memories whenever I look at it.
I was stunned one year when I discovered this Amaryllis growing outside… I hope some of the ones I took to my son in Florida turn out to be this color.
Mama often talked to her plants, especially when they didn’t seem to grow… or grow as fast as she wanted! I remember her telling me how she’d bought more seeds, and after planting them she told them, “Dam You, now grow“… I’m sure some of those conversations had much stronger words! She probably is now telling God in Heaven what he’s doing wrong in his garden… she always felt that she was closest to God while working in the garden.
If only I could take one more walk with my camera through mama’s yard when it was in full bloom!
My previous years of A to Z Challenges:
- 2016: A to Z Southern Foods and Memories… they said write what you know… and being a girl born in the South… well this was what I knew.
- 2017: A to Z Conversations with Mama… it was a somewhat easy one for me to write as I’d journaled our conversations for years… I researched favorite topics to write.
- 2018: A to Z All About Nancy Drew… this one has been my favorite topic so far, and I don’t know if I’ll ever come up with another one to equal it
- 2019: A to Z Italian Famiglia Foods and Memories… I felt it was time to finally write the favorites of my husbands family foods.
- 2020: A to Z Family Stories… writing the stories of my husband’s family.
For more A to Z of Mama in Photos… click HERE!
© 2021, copyright Jeanne Bryan Insalaco; all rights reserved
I just found your A to Z. I remember reading yours in years past so am happy to hook up with this one. It is therapeutic I think, to write about your mother in the A to Z. By sharing some of her life she lives on, not just in your mind but in lots of others. Like you I would love to have lots of flowers but my husband is the one who looks after them even if I am the one who brings home the plants.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Flower gardens are beautiful but very time consuming. I pushed my gardens back to smaller areas as they demand too much time. Mama seemed to push hers bigger as she got older which eventually became too much for her but she wouldn’t give in to us telling her they were too much. It was sad to see her beautiful yard fall into decline over the past few years.
She really does look a bit disappointed that you won’t let her take some of that Elephant ear! My dad was a florist and we always had a garden full of flowers. Wish I had paid more attention to them.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Ha she was!
LikeLiked by 1 person
Such an uplifting post. Your mom seemed like a lovely lady.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Thank you. She was
Your mother’s garden was beautiful and she was obviously very generous…to those who asked, not stole.
LikeLiked by 1 person
She was always eager to go grab her shovel to give plants
LikeLiked by 1 person