As many of you know, Mother’s Day is never quite the same after your mother passes away. Just as my own mother did, I do not make a big deal of the holiday or expect to be lavished with gifts from Clark and Erin. The best present they can give me is just to drop by frequently so we can spend some quality time grilling, talking and laughing out on the deck. Once you become a mother, your course has been set and your life is not yours to live selfishly or carelessly. From the moment you learn that you have new life growing inside your body until you breathe your last breath, it is always Mother’s Day. You never stop losing sleep if something is not right in your child’s life. When your child hurts, you hurt just as deeply. When your child experiences joy or celebrates a hard-won goal, a mother’s heart can hardly hold in all the love and joy.
My mother was a gentle soul who gave freely, laughed often, seldom cried, loved us deeply and expected nothing in return. She was a simple woman who had no use for expensive jewelry, fancy cars or fine clothes. Her china was mostly the plastic kind ordered from a catalog from the Melamine company. Her dinner and glassware was a mismatched menagerie bought at grocery stores with savings stamps or found as a bonus in boxes of clothes detergent. Although she took pride in her appearance and never went to town before applying her crimson lipstick and Maybelline eyes, she seldom treated herself.
She had an allegiance to Fine-Brothers Matison who granted her enough credit to keep her four daughters dressed in trendy clothing. She had the greenest thumb in the community and delighted in sharing plant cuttings with her friends. She would plant petunias or coleus in any container that had at least half a bottom and three sides. She died in May of 2006 just as her variegated hydrangeas were at their bluest blue. We put a few of them in her hands before we laid her to rest.
My most frequent and vivid memory is a vision of her watering her flowers that were scattered throughout the yard. Mother’s left hand is propped on her hip while she uses the entire right side of her body to oscillate the hose nozzle so fiercely that she grits her teeth. It seems as if she has discovered her flowers are on fire and she must hurry to douse the flames. She’s always wearing a floral summer house dress. She may or may not be wearing a baseball cap.
When I think of my mother, I prefer to remember her in the late summer season of her life when she was still active and content with my daddy by her side, not the autumn that left her infirm and held prisoner inside a body that could no longer grow and tend her flowers.
If I could send her a card it would be covered in bright summer blooms, probably hydrangeas, and would have some standard Mother’s Day wish. Inside, I would write these words:
You will be happy to hear that I finally repotted the cactus plant you gave me years ago. It is sitting on my kitchen windowsill so I am reminded of you every morning when the sun is pouring through the windows. The plant that you called the “Aunt Cootie” plant is surprisingly alive and well. It is the only plant that I cannot kill! I have beautiful red petunias hanging in baskets on my front porch that will wilt when the summer heat sets in. At least for now they are happy and thriving. I have one hydrangea that puts on leaves every year but is yet to bloom. Please send some help for them.
Clark is so handsome and looks more like Daddy every day. He has an amazing imitation of him that makes me think he is in the room when I hear it. Clark has a son named John Walker who is so smart and has the bluest eyes and most beautiful thick hair. He’s going to be tall and has the color of skin that tans just as golden-brown as Daddy’s did.
The most unbelievable news of all is that Erin and Ben had a baby girl in January. She is named after you. Helen Jacqueline Napier. People all over the world know her by name, your name, because Erin and Ben are hosts of a show called “Home Town” on HGTV. I know this all sounds unreal, but they have lots of fans all over the world. Erin has posted pictures of you and Daddy during WWII on Instagram (an internet social media thing). Thousands of people commented that you are so beautiful and Daddy is so handsome. Maybe Heaven could get cable television or God could project an episode or two on a cloud. I think you would be very proud of them.
In other news, I’ve cut back on my sunbathing. All your warnings came true. I regret abusing my skin all those years. Mothers always know best. Surprise! I’ve also learned to make dressing and biscuits. We have a garden full of sprouting tomatoes, okra, squash and enough fig trees to feed Jones County. I’ve learned to can them almost to your standards. I wish we could sit on the porch this summer and shell a bushel of peas, although I have no fond longings for shucking and cutting corn like you did. Yours is still the best I’ve ever eaten. I’ve run out of space so I will close for now.
I miss you and think of you every day of my life. Tell sister Charlotte, Daddy and all the rest I love and miss them so much.
Love you, Karen
P.S. If God does happen to project “Home Town” on a cloud or gets Heaven hooked up to cable, make Daddy watch it too. I think he will really like Big Ben. Because he’ll have to know, tell him Ben is 6’ 6” and weighs 300 pounds. I can just hear him belt out his observations, “Good God, boy! You are one helluva big man.” The thought of it makes me laugh so hard.