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Old-fashioned Mother’s Day

by Sandra Hutchinson

Note: this piece was originally written when my two now-adult sons were youngsters.

What I remember most about Mother’s Day as I was growing up, are the various flowers and plants I would give my mom as gifts. I don’t know whether this was something I learned from my teachers, my Girl Scout leaders or my father, who was an avid gardener. What I do know is that May meant lilacs and lilies of the valley and apple blossoms, all of which I would collect and arrange in glass jars with ribbons tied around their necks, to be given to my mother on that Sunday in May.

The other thing I always did, several weeks ahead of Mother’s Day, was to take a sweet potato, stick toothpicks into it, suspend it in a jar half full of water, and wait for the vine to sprout. My sister and I would also sometimes take an avocado pit and likewise urge it to germinate, although I’m sure I didn’t really know what an avocado was until I was much older. Avocados were one of those foods, like lobsters, that my parents, not we kids, ate.

I don’t remember where we kept these creations while we waited for them to sprout and grow, since my mother would undoubtedly notice them if we set them on windowsills in the house. Perhaps my father kept them at his office, or maybe they were in the basement under his grow lights, where he started flats of seeds and I kept my African violets.

We would sneak into my parents’ bedroom before my mother awoke on Mother’s Day, and place the bouquets and sprouting things on the floor next to her bed, and wait for her to open her eyes and see the bounty laid out before her. Of course, there was always a handmade card to go along with the horticultural gifts.

I don’t recall what became of these plants after my mother became their caretaker. Perhaps they sat on a kitchen windowsill until they became too rangy, or maybe my mother popped them into a garden bed outside.

This year, when my boys ask me what I want for Mother’s Day, I may tell them I would love a large bouquet of lilacs or a vase stuffed with lilies of the valley. Breakfast in bed and the Sunday Times would be nice, too. And I might just show them how to start a sweet potato vine.

From time to time, when I’ve done things like enforce our restrictions on the kids’ computer and TV use, my boys have complained that I want our family to behave like we’re living in the 1950s or 1960s. When it comes to Mother’s Day, I think they might be right.

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