Working on a slide show presentation for the gardening club I came across pictures from way back, when I still lived in Holland, or shortly after I left. Looking through them I take a detour into the past.
Mom, oldest daughter in a large family, was born and raised in the city of Utrecht. Three brothers preceded her, eight more siblings followed after her, two of whom died in infancy. Her father, a contractor, built an entire neighborhood in the city, including the largest house on the corner in which they moved. It was across from the church, a school and a park; the perfect spot for a family. There was a huge garage semi attached to the house, which was used for storage, and a large plot of land behind the garage. Life was interrupted in 1940, just before mom turned 19, because of World War II. It was a difficult time; older brothers went overseas, came back and later had to go into hiding. One brother was picked up to work in a camp in Germany. A baby brother was used to smuggle food coupons. Put in a stroller with food coupons tucked away in his clothes they would take him for a walk to a safe address. There, the coupons were passed on to the underground for use by those who were hidden away. An Allied plane was shot down over the park and seeing the resulting carnage was something she never forgot in her life.
As the war came to a close Holland rebuilt and life gradually became back to normal. In time mom and dad met, got engaged and married. A baby was born; my sister. A few years later they were able to buy a house in the small town of Bunnik, and I followed shortly thereafter.
The house in Bunnik had both a small front yard and a large back yard, which was put to good use for growing vegetables and fruit. Mom, however, was not a gardener. I wonder if her older brothers ever teased her with icky insects or invertebrates, as brothers are wont to do. In any event, mom had a deadly fear of worms and anything without legs. Spiders didn’t scare her, but a worm in front of the back door would make her go out the front door. On wet days, when worms seemingly crawled out of every little hole, she never made it out the door. Nature films on tv showing snakes made her look away and only after being told they were really, truly gone, would she look again. Of course, sometimes we lied about them being gone, just to see the look on her face.
Dad was in charge of the garden. Planting, weeding, harvesting cabbages, cauliflower and root crops.
Sis and I were in charge of harvesting the smaller stuff. Rinsing the vegetables had to be done by us as well. After all, you never knew if there was just the tiniest of worms that had made it into the spinach leaves or some other leafy vegetable. One or two rinses were not enough, four or five times were better.
But, while mom kept her distance from vegetables prior to cooking, flowers brightened her life. In Holland we had (and maybe still have) this tradition of bringing home flowers each Friday or Saturday. On market day there are always a few flower stalls where bouquets can be had for little money. As the day passes prices drop as the stall owner prefers to go home empty handed. On Saturday afternoon the best bargains can be had, still to this day, and multiple bouquets are sold for the same price as a single bouquet in the morning. I don’t think dad ever failed to bring home flowers every week. Since yellow was my mother’s favorite color, when freesias where in season, their fragrance permeated the whole house. There were sun flowers or yellow mums in fall, but also many others in a rainbow of colors. As the vegetable garden gave way to a flower garden, daffodils and yellow crocuses popped up in early spring to satisfy that craving for yellow. Then yellow as well as red tulips would open up and soon the entire backyard erupted in color.
As the lilacs bloomed, sprays of blooms would be cut and put inside and once more the house was perfumed with its scent. Mom, an avoid stamp collector, preferred being indoors, especially when the weather was hot. She would spend hours pouring over stamps received from all corners of the world through family overseas or pen pals. Indoors she was also safe from all those creepy crawlers so readily found in a garden.While I may be the polar opposite of mom when it comes to the outdoor stuff, I came to the realization some time ago I have turned into my mother, with similar habits or even the way I look. And I am ok with that. For mom I planted the front garden with its yellow foliage and flowers. Maybe on a clear day, when all is back in bloom, she’ll be able to see it all the way from up there and she will say “my daughter did that, for me, to remember me by”.
With Christmas and New Year upon us, let's reflect for a moment on those who have gone before us and their impact on us. To celebrate their life and to let them know we still miss them, even now, years later.