These were baba’s joy. Every winter he sent me photos of all his flowers with much pride. I had forgotten all about his flowers. Gouri sent these to me today. The man has ceased to exist but his love continues to spread through these blooms. There is an analogy to life and continuity somewhere but I am just content to look at them and think about the happiness they gave him each year.
My friend gave me a bag of gladiolus bulbs at a time when I was indiscriminately planting flowers to nurture some form of life after losing 2 most precious (to me) lives to Covid in quick succession. I had never had much luck in growing plants from seeds or bulbs but I was mentally exhausted to think about what would thrive and what would not and somewhat fatalistic about planting. I needed to dig holes, separate roots and gently place them in the hole with the hope that it will draw nutrition and grow up to radiate beauty and yes, joy.
To be honest, I had forgotten about the bulbs till I saw young green shoots emerging from the soil. I think I was weeding when I noticed them. They certainly looked different from crab grass and I stopped myself from plucking them from the ground. Could they be…? They were! Gradually they grew to be long green stalks, some grew more than others. They were just that for a long time though – long green stalks. Sean and I wondered if that is the end of their journey. And then we saw some diamond shaped patterns on the head of one stalk. I kept close eye on it. The next metamorphosis that I noticed was a deeper shade of purple just underneath the green. And today, when I walked out to go for my walk, I saw this.
I want you all to meet Little Bud. Welcome! I have been patiently waiting for you. You made me happy and you are one of my “goods” this week.
Ma died on what was Mother’s day in my part of the world, May 9th. It was morning of May 10th in India. I had wished her “Happy Mother’s Day, Ma” for the last time that morning and she also wished me back happy Mother’s day from her hospital bed. Then she closed her eyes saying she was staying at her sister’s place for a while and she will go home in a few days. Those were our last words to each other. She fell asleep thinking she was at her sister’s house and never woke up.
Next day I planted a small geranium plant in my freshly weeded flower bed in her memory. I think back now on my mental state on that day and all I remember is a numbness and a desire to cultivate life. I planted that little sapling which had vibrant red flowers – a gift from Sahana on Mother’s day. After ma’s death and while we fought for baba’s life, I often sat next to the little plant and felt ma’s energy within me. In the next few days, I asked Sahana to buy whichever plants she wanted and bring them home. She bought some beautiful perennials and annuals and I planted them indiscriminately, almost feverishly. Gardening became a physical need in those days. Baba was still alive and the doctors were giving me hope. So while I planted my garden, I held on to positive thoughts – I will have one parent. I will have someone to go home to. But nine days later, he packed up and followed her as well while I was left with my flowers.
While my other flowers bloomed, the ma flower (I had come to call the geranium ma plant or didiya plant) shed all its flowers and became bare. The leaves are still alive and green but it does not have a single bloom. I ask it sometimes what it’s plan is. Why won’t it give us flowers any more? Sahana says “Didiya is just being obstinate or she got a hair cut.” We both laugh.
Ma was never into nature. She liked a pretty flower or green grass just fine but her joys were books and shopping. When they visited us in USA, baba sat outside looking at lush green and blue sky. He had a stillness about him that attracted bunnies and birds. Sage sat with him and kept him company. Ma on the other hand puttered around the house, cooked Indian food, played with the kids and gossiped with me. She loved when I bought salmon and when I took her to Target, Kohl’s or the mall. She went down to the basement and read my Bengali books, a collection which she helped me build up. She read those books several times while she stayed with us for months. She revisited her old friends, her favorite authors again and again.
It almost seems like ma is sending me a message through her non blooming alter ego, ma plant. She is telling me “Enough with all this gardening, get back to books, hit the stores, buy something nice.” Okay, obstinate woman, I will get back to books. I have not been able to read anything since I seem to gloss over life and words right now, but I will try to get back to reading. I draw a line when it comes to shopping though. I can not do it. I will not do it. I will just look at the glossy leaves of the obstinate ma plant instead of vibrant red flowers but I will still not hit the stores!
On every Mother’s Day, I get a gift of seeds. When Sahana started this tradition, I was immensely touched by the thought behind it. I am a nurturer, nourishing my saplings so they become big, strong trees. Ryan has kept the tradition alive. This year I received pretty flower seeds, chilli pepper seeds ( since I hail from the land of hot peppers) and a tomato plant.
After careful nurturing and waiting and observing for the better part of summer, the pepper plant has beautiful peppers, the flowers are gorgeous and the tomato plant has plump, green tomatoes. We are all very, very excited because we are not a family of green thumbs. We end up killing our green children. This one time we did not and understandably we all smile widely as we walk by our flowers and our produce.
My resident entrepreneur, however, is at his mercenary best.
“Mom, I have decided to give you a family discount. For you, and only you each tomato is going to cost 75 c and each pepper is going to cost a nickel. For others, tomatoes are a dollar and peppers are 20 c.”
“Wait! What?? How did the produce become yours, might I ask?”
“Well, I weeded and I watered them. So I labored and so the tomatoes and peppers are mine. But I will sell them to you at a discounted price!”
“But they were my gifts! You gave them to me! And I paid you for weeding! You were my employee! You can not claim ownership!!!”
A hot debate ensued. He did not understand my logic. He was illogical to begin with. Finally, I became the mom voice and said, “Forget about it. The tomatoes are mine, the peppers are mine. You, my friend, are mine! So deal with it!”
He has not given up yet. The issue of tomatoes and peppers come up often. Nothing has been harvested. I am expecting a blood bath when I actually pick the vegetable. Stay tuned for the epic war.
Never a dull moment.