In early March, I found myself at Tractor Supply, a chain of stores that sells things to people who have tractors or secretly want to. There is everything there from fencing to feed. In the spring, they have flowers and vegetables for sale. Charles had a coupon for a percentage off a purchase of $50, and he was short a few dollars making the $50. He told me to grab something. Of course, I ran to the plants. The roses were on display. No blooms, just covered in the protective wax they come in. I selected one with a picture of a yellow rose on the tag. My mother loved yellow roses. I thought this one should be in bloom in time for Mother’s Day.
It was in bloom on Mother’s Day, but it wasn’t yellow. It had been mis-labeled. The rose is pink and white, not yellow. It wasn’t too long ago I would have felt terrible about that. I had planted the rose with Mom in mind. I was looking forward to it being yellow. But it is OK. The rose is beautiful anyway. This morning it was covered in drops of water from the morning rain. I think it is stunning. I think Mom would agree. I think she would stay it is OK it is not yellow.
I sat out on the porch with my morning coffee thinking about her. The normal Vatican of cardinals came by and the hummingbirds were busy at the feeder. My son and daughter texted me “Happy Mother’s Day” wishes from South Texas where they both live with their families. I had a nice conversation with both. They are wonderful humans and I am blessed to call them mine. Charles made me breakfast and I ate it on the porch.
I spent the day planting and planning my outdoor space. I could not have asked for a nicer Mother’s Day, other than having my children here for a visit. But they live in another state and are parents themselves. I am lower on the list of priorities than I used to be – and that is the way it should be. That is the way I raised them to be.
While I was taking a little break from pulling up Chinese bush clover (a non-native, invasive, and frankly not very pretty weed), something caught my eye. There, on the passion flower vines, the fritillary butterflies had already arrived. Nothing says my mother like fritillary butterflies on passion vines. Year after year, her front fence was covered in both. Oddly, after she died, the butterflies didn’t seem as plentiful. The year immediately after her death, they didn’t show up at all.
I took a quick picture and texted it to my sister and brother, “Happy Mother’s Day. The butterflies have arrived!”
I have been accused of over-romanticizing my mother, and I’m guilty, I know. The days leading up to and following her death, I would have killed a person for saying she was anything but perfect. But she wasn’t. I know that. Sometimes I’ll say something about her and my sister and brother will give me a little “huh” look. Sometimes I do the same when they mention her. The truth is, we all three had different mothers. My mother was different, than Amy’s, and Amy’s mother was different from Kevin. We have varying interpretations of the same memories. She treated us all differently, because we are different people. She was very big on “to each according to his or her needs.” She didn’t treat us the same, but she tried very hard to love us equally.
But, she stumbled. Of course she did. She was human. When I was born, she was 24 years old. I was her third child out of five. Kevin was born in 1967 and Amy followed in 1969., She had kids before she was 30.
This is my mother and me on my paternal grandparent’s porch. We were simple people, evidenced by the water cooler in the “front room” window. My cousins and I all sat in that little red rocking chair at some point in our young childhood. I think one of my Parker cousins has it now. The back of the photo only says “Carolyn June White and Diane White 1964” in Mom’s lovely handwriting. Easter came before I was born that year, so maybe this picture is my first Mother’s Day. I can’t say for sure. Maybe it is the posing, or that Mom never liked pictures; maybe it is the sun beating down on the both of us; maybe that pumpkin color suit is uncomfortable, but neither of us look like we are having much fun.
I think we romanticize the dead because they can no longer hurt us like the living can. She hurt me sometimes and I hurt her sometimes. But, in the end none of that mattered. The only thing that mattered was that she knew how much I loved her.
It is nice that I can think about her without crying. Now my thoughts are just of a good Mom that I loved and who loved me. I have been able to move past worrying over unspoken things, or things spoken that never should have been. I no longer regret not having gained huge success while she was alive to witness it. I’ve stopped thinking “I never made her proud of me.”
Losing a mother is hard, one of the hardest things a woman has to do. But, it is also something everyone has to do unless we go first. It is a normal life thing. Very very hard, but it’ll be OK.