My mother does not consider herself an excellent gardener. But I know differently. Every Spring I have watched my mom gingerly place slight seeds in a red solo cup full of dirt. She affixed that cup by the windowsill so that it could accept nourishment from the sun. As the rest of the family went about our busy business, she carefully watered it. She alone noticed when the sprouts awakened. Fresh, small, green leaves emerged from the soil and my mom celebrated. That seed grew until it was too large for the boundaries of comfort. Though it hurt the immaculate plant, my mom transposed the leafy seed from its sheltering solo cup to the world beyond the window- where bugs lurk and rain pelts. Because only there, in the yard, would the plant have a chance to spread its roots and flourish. My mom saw flowers flourish. So too has my mother grown me.
My mother did not think she would make a good mother. She planned to live her life as a newlywed plant free and pet free. Spring came around and instead of living responsibility free, she got me, a baby girl whose tears rarely abated. The swing happened to be the only place where I would not cry, or so my parents say. Too poor for the electronic swing, they bought a hand crank swing. Late in the night, early in the morning, exhausted arms shaking, my mom learned how my tears would be alleviated and she sacrificed to bring me comfort. Since then, my swings have evolved, but the comforting environment has never changed.
My house did change though. When we moved from Ohio to Georgia, my parents carefully selected a church that taught the truth. Gently, she placed me in a dwelling where I could accept the light of the Son. My mom showed me the way of service. Teaching Sunday School, writing curriculum, and organizing camps, my mom made sure my sisters and I had chances to experience the love of God. One of my favorite sounds in life has always been standing beside my mommy when she sings praise to the Lord. The choice was mine to make, but she made the choice look beautiful. And when I made that choice, my mom celebrated. In purple pen, she chronicled my decision on a blank page of my New Reader’s Adventure Bible. And then my mom prayed with me. My mom’s prayers for me are still being treasured and answered.
Those prayers carried me through life and slowly, I started to grow. I grew in stature and I grew in knowledge. I learned. Thinking summer was a wonderful opportunity, my mom put her early childhood education major to use. As I jumped into the pool, I learned state capitals. I reviewed past presidents every breakfast. My sisters and I bonded over a shared abhorrence for Old Man and the Sea, a book my mother coerced us to read the summer of our sixth grade year. She applied these academic lessons by planning trips. Ireland, the Grand Canyon, New York City, Niagara Falls, Costa Rica, England, Paris, China—my mom’s lessons were fun. While I loved to learn, and while this love of learning took me far, these are not the lessons that I cherish most. Through a steady example and patient advice, my mom taught me how to forgive the fourth grade bully who teased me for tucking my shirts in. She taught me how to love the seventh grade outcast that picked me for a friend. And she taught me, the twelfth grade homebody, how to thrive on my own. The day my family helped move me into college is forever engraved in my heart’s memory. My little sisters grasped my hands. My dad whispered the prayer he had prayed over my childhood bed every night before I drifted off to dreams. And my Mommy silently shed a tear.
I don’t know my mom’s exact emotions from that fairly recent day. But I imagine she was afraid for me. I was the product of her labor and suddenly she was moving me from the window sill to the yard. I am more accessible to bugs and storms, but she and I know that bugs and storms help produce growth. And it is time for me to grow in a different way. My roots must spread so I can blossom and bear fruit. My mom still encourages me and protects me, but she does so from afar. If I do one day find I have turned into a flower, it will be only because I had a superb gardener, a superb mom.