My mother will be 85 on June 29th this year. She lives in Israel and doesn’t travel anymore. Several years ago, when she still could, she visited me in Vancouver, where I live, during the summer. We went to a botanical garden and admired a sprawling peony bush there. Big creamy blooms covered it so densely, you had trouble seeing the green leaves.
“My parents had a bush like that,” she said. Then she told me a story I had never heard before.
When I was a toddler, one year old, I think, mama had to leave home for a few hours, to go shopping. She took me to stay with her parents. In front of their house, in the small front yard, grew a huge peony bush. That morning, it was awash with flowers.
When she came back to pick me up, the bush was empty, no flowers at all. Her parents were hysterical. And I was sitting on the floor in the middle of the living room, strewn with peony petals, and happily pulling petals from the last peony in my supply pile.
“Where have you been for so long?” my grandparents demanded from their daughter. “The baby started crying the moment you stepped out of doors. The only way we could keep her quiet was to give her flowers to pull the petals. But we don’t have any more flowers. We thought about going to the neighbors. Don’t ever leave her with us again!”
I don’t pick peony petals anymore, even when I miss my mother. And I do miss her. Every day. Happy Mother’s Day, mama.