Some stories—in their depth, preciousness, wisdom or humor with earnestness and heartfelt desire, long to be told—and at times, over and over again. This is one of my favorite stories and I would like to share it with you. Please pour yourself a beverage and make yourself comfortable! I’ll wait!
Twenty years ago as my children left behind the world of toddler-hood and began their journey into being young children the understanding and tradition of celebrating Mother’s Day began. As parents, we teach our children what to celebrate, as we decide for our own individual families what we choose to honor—and how.
I have been fortunate to be the recipient of many wonderful Mother’s Day gifts, beginning as they often do, with my child’s hand-print embossed into a ceramic disc accompanied by the official “hand-print-poem” which completes this lovely keepsake. In looking back, as a Post-Mommy, the evidence of their growth, development and maturity can be observed in the gifts I have received on Mother’s Day. As dexterity increases, a painted macaroni necklace is carefully laced upon ribbon, and before you know it, the gift-making has advanced to a small shelf which has been proudly built, sanded and stained in a wood-shop class. Often, at some point in time, these hand-made gifts give way to the process of gift selection, which also tends to have a measurable quantifier of the age of the child! (Do I really have to wear that???) In addition to gift giving on Mother’s Day often there is the decision of a desired activity, what would you like to do?
When my children were 5 and 3 years old, I was asked what I would like to do on Mother’s Day. Unbeknownst to me at the time, a wonderful tradition was born—and this is one of the reasons I wish to share my story this Sunday, 2 weeks prior to Mother’s Day, should any Current-Day Mommies become inspired to add this tradition to their own family. In the Northeast, May is the month when Spring with all of it’s flowering glory has finally arrived! We begin planting annuals—Impatiens, Petunias, and Snapdragons—which will spend the summer adding joyous color to pots and in rows and in mounds of brilliant color. My choice for Mother’s Day, was to share this task with my children.
Enthusiastically I responded, “Let’s plant flowers on Mother’s Day!”
I refused all gifts, I forbid being served breakfast in bed and restaurants were out of the question! This was my day and I wanted to plant flowers—together!
On Mother’s Day we embarked upon our adventure, starting with a trip to the local nursery where selections were made—everyone was allowed to pick a flower. Let’s just say the previous years of coordinating rows of colorful flowers and pots filled with size and color-balanced-blends was obliterated. Little gloves and spades were purchased, mud boots were donned and digging began. To say this was a peaceful experience would be untrue. Flowers were rudely plucked from the plastic flats with abandon as I hurriedly explained the need for the roots to remain intact. At some point a watering can was involved, which accidentally sprinkled all over a younger brother! When we finished our planting, I am uncertain whether there was more soil on the walkway, boots, children and our Golden Retriever puppy than left in the ground in which we had been planting. This Mother’s Day was filled with laughter, fun, flowers, mud, a puppy and children—and was—simply wonderful!
The next day, I solemnly walked into the garden, whispering quiet apologies to the flowers that had not fared too well, as I attempted to prop them up—reorganizing their roots to actually be completely in the ground. I must honestly admit—there were casualties.
The following year a declaration was made; each year, every year, all I wanted for Mother’s Day was a flower-planting-celebration—and so we did! As the years continued little hands became more capable of tasks, color preferences and the kinds of flowers that were appreciated developed, and then changed, and then changed again. Specific areas in the yard were “claimed” as their own—to design and create their own unique and beautiful display. And the plantings were gorgeous.
To tell this story and claim that every year was glorious would be, well, not the truth. As the years went on negotiations began, as unsuccessful attempts and an upping of the ante of possible gifts were offered—in exchange for being released from having to go outside and plant flowers. There were several years of eye rolling, multiple claims that this was “unfair” and the insistent questioning, as to why they couldn’t just buy a gift—like a normal family? Nature also offered challenges, as a rainy Mother’s Day arrived—we adapted by carrying terra-cotta pots into the garage enabling planting to be done inside, as they “froze to death” requesting cup after cup of hot chocolate. (With marshmallows please!)
During certain years, I did find myself wondering; why am I doing this? However, for the most part, over our twenty year tradition the day was joyful, even when the planting event was a version of teenager joy—blasting music and hose fights between siblings. Nevertheless, it was our tradition and I loved every moment, okay fine, almost every moment.
The puppy which I mentioned who attended our first planting, joined our family as my oldest child began kindergarten. The idea (relentless begging) to add a puppy into our family resulted in Cody, a Golden Retriever. My thought which solidified the decision was that a source of unconditional love seemed a worthy endeavor. During the days when a required “time out” was appropriate Cody was always included, as he dutifully followed behind them. (“Come on Cody, we’re in a ‘time out’.”)
Cody filled the role of unconditional love to perfection, he would savor the opportunity to serve as a pillow during movie watching, with two little heads resting upon him. He insisted on wearing a pink tutu every Halloween as he accompanied princesses, hippies, ninja turtles and monsters trick-or-treating. Cody became the mascot for every team that was played on—as he proudly sported a team shirt. When a sick-day arrived Cody would assume his position—next to the bed of the little patient and wait protectively for recovery.
The secret wish I had—was that Cody would be able to be photographed with each child at the start of each school year from kindergarten to high school graduation. Having not taken the time to do the math, as this was in the wishful thinking category, this was asking Cody for fifteen years of offering his unyielding love—while simultaneously granting us the gift of loving and caring for him. That wish, as some do, remained unfulfilled. Cody enriched our lives for nine years and he was able to attend two elementary school graduation celebrations. While my daughter and son were in middle school the time came for us to say good-bye and to thank him for his love. The first Mother’s Day without Cody joining us while we planted flowers was bittersweet—by the next year we had adapted—families change—and this was just one of ours.
If asked, I would guess hundreds of flowers had been planted when The Mother’s Day arrived when my daughter was a sophomore in high school and my son was in 8th grade. The annual planting of the flowers was planned and due to their advanced ages, I decided we were ready to go to the next level of flower planting!
This would take preparation! I began two weeks in advance sharing with them my plan to obtain seedling flats to plant that year. Without them asking me (meaning they reluctantly listened and feigned interest and enthusiasm) I began the informative explanation of seedling flats—they were the source—of the flowers we had always purchased in the past from the nursery. Excitedly (not feigning at all) I explained that we were getting the original flowers from the growers—which would result in “this year, our flowers will exceed every other year in beauty and bountiful growth!” I told them the story of the four Dutchmen who had come from Holland to New Jersey in the late 1800’s and subsequently become the leading suppliers of all of the flowers in the United States! I wasn’t exactly certain how much of this information was historically accurate, these were stories I had heard and admittedly I had not taken the time to do my own research for verification. My rationalization—I was the Mother who had taught them about Santa Claus, The Tooth Fairy and The Easter Bunny—I took the liberty of assuming all would be forgiven—as is the case in the other similar accepted Mommy-approved-teachings.
This year we were going to go the distance—the four Dutchmen and their farms—were a two-hour drive away!
An iPod Nano was offered, I was enticed with wonderful visions of a relaxing spa day, coupon books which would be filled with tickets redeemable for the least favorite of household chores and months of their savings for any purchase was willingly being offered—dangled before me in exchange for the cancellation of the flower planting excursion!
Pleadingly they begged, “Anyyyyyythingggggg but planting flowers! This is not just planting flowers, we have to drive two hours, go to the Dutch-whatever, pick up the seed-things, drive back 2 hours and THEN start planting flowers??? Can’t you go get them before Sunday?”
I replied with a non-emotional, “We’ll need to get an early start, 8:00 in the morning will be perfect. It’s Mother’s Day and I get to decide what we’re doing.” (Wow, that was impressive—why couldn’t I manage to do that more often?)
At this point in the story I ask you to please imagine moaning, complaining, yawning and overall general pathetic suffering on the morning of Mother’s Day. When we finally got into the car for this horrid, unfair trip—I handed each of them a gift wrapped in spring-like flowered paper. I’m a big fan of themes.
Chastising me they said, “Mom! This is Mother’s Day you’re not supposed to give us a gift—we’re supposed to give you a gift! And you said no gifts!”
Smiling I replied, “You are giving me a gift, you are traveling to the four Dutchmen to get seedling flats—these will be the most beautiful flowers we have ever planted! I gave you each a gift for making me a Mom, because without you—I wouldn’t be one!” (I channeled Doris Day for that response!)
Corny always pushes them over the edge and after all it was my day—and pushing them over the edge? Well, that was just a little gift to myself!
Obligingly they opened their respective gifts; for her—a pair of pink gardening gloves (her least favorite color at the time) and for him—a pair of blue gardening gloves (he would have preferred rugged leather.) Ahhhh, payback!
To which they sarcastically exclaimed, “Oh, wow, Mom, just what we always wanted…”
I smiled and said “You’re welcome!”
As a sophomore in high school my daughter had her driving permit, in an effort to placate them, I acquiesced to being relegated to the back seat. The 8th grader inserted a never-ending continuous flow of CD’s—his preassigned position (unknown to me) was to serve as the official DJ during our road trip. It was a reallllllly long ride—two hours can realllllly seem like an eternity!
After our drive (torture) was completed, we arrived at the home of one of the four Dutchmen. As we approached the house I reminded them to be courteous. We were being invited into someone’s home and we were being welcomed to share in their wonderful tradition of growing flowers.
Shocked that an additional request was being made of them (to be socially appropriate-how dare I?) they responded with, “What? Are you kidding? We thought we were coming to a store?!”
With great reverence I responded, “Oh no, this is one of the original, four Dutchmen families, this is very special.”
As we knocked, the door opened and we were greeting by a lovely woman who graciously stepped aside welcoming us to enter, “Please come in, I’ve been expecting you.”
As we entered the foyer, from another room, came a bounty running down a long hallway towards us—14 adorable, romping, bumping, rolling and yapping Golden Retriever Puppies! At the sight of all of this fluffy joy, two teenagers dropped to the floor to greet the puppies and in doing so, assumed their true roles—as children. (Mission accomplished.)
In childhood glee I heard, “Mom, look at the puppies! Did you know they had puppies here? I can’t believe it! They’re so cute!”
And I said, “Pick a flower.”
With confusion and possibly a hint of slight annoyance they responded, “What do you mean, we are here to pick flowers!”
“No we’re not, we’re here to pick a puppy-flower!”
There is no greater pleasure (well there is…but at this moment, there was not) than to render a teenager speechless, to be able to surprise, truly shock the all-knowing-ness of a teen! (I am victorious!)
We spent over an hour in the charming back corral of this gorgeous farm—playing with puppies—as we were being relished with licks, soft fur and playful nips as we picked our flower. The drive home was very different from the one which had brought us to this place. I was asked if I minded driving and the back seat was requested to enable turns to be taken to hold our flower. Gleeful, adorable discussions followed; a name needed to be chosen, when and how did I orchestrate my master plan, they wanted to know everything as they began to appreciate the nuance of the details I had constructed; the story of the four Dutchmen and the gloves I had given them. They questioned if we had food and supplies at home for our new family member and I assured them everything was prepared for our new arrival. As our journey ended, we pulled into the driveway of our home with our new puppy, and yet, the best moment was still to come.
With realization they asked, “What about the flowers? We didn’t plant any flowers this year!”
Was I hearing disappointment? That Mother’s Day, I received the best gift in the years I have been graced with the privilege to be their Mom, when they said—
“Let’s plant flowers next weekend.”
Lucas, our Mother’s Day flower, is now eight years old. He stepped in with an abundance of unconditional love and playfulness. Lucas has been part of our family for two high school graduations and two college graduations! During the six college years of my daughter and son participating in the to-and-from college departures and arrivals, the most outwardly enthusiastic greeting on every one of their returns came from Lucas.
This Mother’s Day the flowers will be planted without my children being present, who are now young adults. My daughter is on an amazing adventure in South America and my son is on location as he begins his promising career. I am not disheartened that they will not be able to join me this year, to me their absence represents that they are blooming—just as flowers do. I believe, in this summer-time of their lives they have all they will require to grow abundantly. To keep me company as I plant our flowers on Mother’s Day, I have twenty years of joyous memories to share the planting with—and of course Lucas!
When my daughter and son return this summer I know we will look at the Mother’s Day flowers together. I anticipate that they will appreciate the beauty of the flowers and acknowledge how magnificently they are growing. And I, will be looking at them—and agree, yes, they are growing beautifully and magnificently—their garden is thriving.
Happy Mother’s Day!