Mother’s Day Flowers–Honorable Mention
Purple iris blossoms towered above her head, their stems waving a bit as she peered through the green fronds. She hugged the black plastic pot against her chest and walked unsteadily toward the garden. “I’m five now,” she said. “I can carry it myself.” Her father and I walked silently on either side.
“Shall we put it here?” Herb said, pointing to an open space near the edge of the walkway.
“No Papa” she said quietly.
“How about over here where there is room?” I asked. She shook her head and kept walking. She seemed uncertain. How do you decide? I wondered. How do you know where to place flowers for a mother dead so long that you can barely remember her face, or the sound of her voice?
All day she’d put it off when we asked. Do you want to plant Mama’s flowers in the garden? Not now, Papa, Maybe later. The sun was setting when she finally agreed, and the air was thick with doubt. Yesterday she blew out five candles, her wishes unexpressed. Today, she was still motherless, as the whole world proclaimed the importance of mothers.
A trip to the grave, five states away, was impossible. But ignoring this day seemed equally wrong. So, we improvised. “Get some of Martha’s favorite flowers, I suggested, “and we’ll plant them in your garden.”
Now I was not sure. Was this just for us? Was it a torture we were forcing on this child, a ritual of spring that had no meaning except to make her sad? She moved slowly along the side of the house.
“I want them here, Papa.” She stopped and placed the pot on the ground, gesturing toward the dirt. I looked quickly, and saw nothing. Dark brown dirt, shadowed by the setting sun. Then she pointed. “Inside our flowers.” A small semicircle of green buds, no bigger than peas, poked out of the ground.
Herb’s eyes were wide. “You mean the ones you and Mama planted?”
He looked over at me and whispered, “Two and a half, could she remember?”
I did not answer, just began to spade the earth, digging gently to avoid the hidden bulbs that embraced the deepening hole.
When it was done, she smiled. She looked down to be careful, then set her feet and leaned forward, stretching her arm to touch an iris blossom. One finger landed gently, then flitted off. “Happy Mother’s Day, Mama,” she said softly.
That night I slept deeply. My dreams were filled with cream-colored roots, spring’s living filaments, weaving through moist dark earth, reaching for connection.
Mary E. Plouffe is a clinical psychologist and writer of memoir, essays and creative non-fiction. Her new book I Know It in My Heart: Walking through grief with a child releases this month, and is available at indie bookstores, Amazon, or on her website www.maryeplouffeauthor.com. She is currently working on a book of essays on listening.