Last week as I turned the page on my desk calendar to the month of September, my thoughts immediately turned to my mother. My Mum — as I always called her growing up, and who passed away in 2003 — would have been 99 years old just a couple of days ago.
To say that my Mum was the greatest influence in my life would be a colossal understatement. Separated from my father for the first 10 years of my life, my mother did her absolute best to provide for the both of us, toiling in a textile mill in central England.
Also, to say that my mother was not a traditional mom might be another well-placed understatement. She certainly didn’t cook unless fried eggs and bacon can count as cooking. Most of my meals were purchased at the local “fish and chips” shop down the road from our home.
Neither did my Mum sew or garden even though her grandfather and three of her four brothers were master gardeners. Still she always made certain that I had everything I needed especially for school and she always insisted I look my best wherever I went.
Even after my mother reunited with my father and was more than financially secure, she didn’t seem to change much. She still didn’t cook and left that mostly to my father. Her gardening skills, however, did improve — at least to a point. Where she lived in Ohio, there was always a beautiful assortment of colorful flowers carefully arranged along the front beds of her yard — even in the snow-covered depths of winter. You see, those bountiful bouquets were all made of plastic.
I often teased her about her bogus blooms until one day she shared a story about an elderly couple who lived near a close friend of hers. The couple had been the pride of their neighborhood because of their elaborate flower garden. Their passion for their yard was unsurpassed and every spring people would walk by to witness their botanical paradise.
As the couple began to age, the lady of the house started to lose her eyesight as well as other physical ailments which kept her away from her beloved garden. As time passed, she simply sat inside just staring out her window.
Her husband too struggled with declining health including debilitating arthritis, but he couldn’t bear to see his wife disappointed by the loss of beauty in their yard. So one early spring, he painstakingly planted an assortment of plastic blooms believing his wife’s deteriorating eyesight would be convinced they were real.
His aging wife, however, confessed to a friend that she had known all along the flowers her devoted husband had planted weren’t real.
“Please don’t tell my husband, that I know, will you?” she begged her friend. “I’d hate to disappoint him after all of the hard work he did just for me.”
I know I smiled when my mother told me that heartfelt story, which almost made it seem perhaps plastic plants weren’t so bad after all.
So as my mother’s birthday has once again passed, I can’t help thinking about how blessed I’ve been to have had such an incredibly caring woman who raised me and taught me so much about life and people and about being charitable.
Yes, when it comes to my mother, a rose can still be a rose — even when it’s made of plastic.