Some of my earliest and best memories of my childhood home and my mother are centered on flowers. My mother was a gardener with two green thumbs and eight green fingers. The small yard of the small house I grew up in on Evanston Avenue was at first almost all planted in “Victory Garden” vegetables. Over time the vegetables were pushed to the back until all that remained were the annual tomato plants my father planted behind the whit picket fence in the alleyway.
The rest of the yard was bordered by artfully curving flower beds. Every mother’s day my mom was “gifted” with a large bale of peat moss to add to the flower beds.
There was a large purple lilac at side door and across the driveway right next to the property line and along that side of the house were red tulips and purple iris.
Spring cleaning started with the clearing and polishing of the dining room table. Then mom would go outside with her pruning shears and cut masses of fragrant lilacs and bright red tulips and deep purple iris. A huge vase was filled with water and the arranging began. Mom had an eye for floral arrangement partly natural and partly trained during her short time as a florist at Bertemann’s in Indianapolis. It was there that she met and worked with David Letterman’s father. Later he opened his own shop and many years later he did the flowers for my wedding.
First the lilacs were nipped to different heights and arranged then the deep purple iris, with their grapey smell, were tucked in here and there and finally the bright red tulips, just budding, were strategically placed. The house was filled with the fresh clean smell of spring. Slowly throughout the week the house was vacuumed, dusted and polished in circles rippling out from the floral focal point.
I remember the deep pleasure I felt waking to those flowers and the clean and tidy house they had inspired.
As time passed and days got full of the increasing needs of growing family, completing her bachelor’s degree and teaching certificate, teaching, attending every basketball, football and baseball game a son played in, leading PTA, Cub Scouts and Girl Scouts, participating in Red Cross and Civil Defense, March of Dimes, the Frat (Fraternal Association of the Deaf), camping trips, and prom dresses, filled her days to overflowing.
But every spring the dining room table was cleared and polished and the huge bouquet of lilacs, iris and bright red tulips appeared. The ripple effect got smaller and smaller. But then my mother always knew what was real and important.
Debbie has a heart for flowers also and most weekend shopping trips end with a search for stargazer lilies for the living room coffee table. She has her two favorite flower stalls and we drive past slowly looking to see if there is a bucket of the fragrant blooms waiting for us. If we don’t spy any at the first stall we drive on a half a block to the next one. Yesterday, we could see the deep pink peeking out from a bucket by the road. Debbie turned at the corner and made a U to get to the flower side of the road and a good place to pull over. We popped out, this time I had my camera in hand and while Debbie negotiated for two bundles