10: Mom’s Garden of Three

10: Mom’s Garden of Three

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Hope & Miracles

Mom’s Garden of Three

The soil is the great connector of our lives, the source and destination of all.

~Wendell Berry

When my mother passed away, many of my closest friends gave me spring blooming bulbs as gifts because they knew that my mom and I had shared a love of gardening. Mom could happily spend hours working in her garden and she’d passed on to me her delight in welcoming old flower friends each spring, and also planting new ones. We both adored that sense of renewal and liked nothing more than to put on our gardening clothes and get our hands into the dirt.

My mom had died rather unexpectedly in the cold, grey month of February. My heart felt broken—like it too had a heavy cover of snow, and I just couldn’t imagine how or when it would thaw. It was too cold to plant the lovely basket of bulbs from her friends, so I set them aside in my cold storage, thinking to myself that I would plant them in the fall and dedicate one of my beds as a special “memory garden” to honor my mom.

My mother was an amazing person—she was one of three triplet girls born to Scottish immigrants in 1927 in Brantford, Ontario. And let me tell you, those three girls were a handful! They were all extremely creative, social and more than a little mischievous—they loved playing tricks and surprises on their friends and families.

During the spring following my mother’s death I spent many hours working in my garden. It was one of the things that lifted my spirits. I was trying to decide where I should create her memorial garden. I am lucky to have a large beautiful yard with many lovely spots and I just couldn’t decide. Should it be back by the fence where I could see it from the kitchen window? Or should I put it close to the house so I could feel her near me? There were so many places I could choose from and I just couldn’t make up my mind. I decided to wait for inspiration to hit.

One day I noticed a mysterious plant that had somehow “appeared” in an empty garden bed right under my bedroom window. It looked oddly familiar. I knew it wasn’t a weed, but I also knew I had not planted it. I was completely puzzled so I decided to just let it grow and see what developed. Day by day the little plant flourished. One Saturday afternoon as I was working in my yard, I realized that it had done something unusual—it had separated into three different stalks of the same plant. I knew I had seen it before, but couldn’t remember where. I ran inside to look in a gardening book and saw that it was a plant called “four o’clocks.” And then I knew why it had seemed so familiar. It was one my mom had planted many times—we had always had them in the garden at our family cottage at the lake, and also in the flowerbeds of our family home in London, Ontario when we were growing up. But I hadn’t seen one in years and had certainly never purchased one. So how could it be growing right here — when I knew I hadn’t planted it?

I felt a shiver run up my spine — and then I got it. I smiled as I said out loud, “Okay Mom, I get the trick. You helped me decide, didn’t you?” I truly believe that my mother sent me this little “tri-plant” as a sign to tell me, “I’m still here. This can be my garden and I will always be just a glance away if you need me.” She chose a four o’clock because it had a history with our family so I knew it could only have been sent from her. And she had made it separate into three, like those mischievous and marvelous triplets — so I couldn’t possibly miss the symbol—or the surprise! My decision had been made. I knew where to plant her garden and where to add the bulbs from her friends.

And the messages didn’t stop there. That first Christmas, my mom’s absolutely favorite time of year, we had the whole family over to our house for dinner. I had inherited two of her African violets when she passed away. I had never had luck with violets before, but I repotted them, put them on my table and hoped that they’d survive. On Christmas Day, while we were opening presents, I suddenly heard my husband say, “Beckie! Take a look. There are flowers on your mom’s plants!” I glanced over and both African violets were blooming. And guess what? Three little blooms on each!

Over the years there have been other signs too numerous to mention, the last one being a few summers ago. I had taken a much-needed, short holiday at a friend’s cottage and we were creating a garden for her. The island where the cottage sits is mostly rock so we had to bring in dirt and plants and create gardens out of the stone at the water’s edge. At one point, as we were hauling large rocks out of the water and were up to our elbows in dirt, my friend said, “That’s weird—there are daisies here—how can that be? We never had flowers here!” I looked over and sure enough, there were three little daisies — my mom’s all-time favorite flower. I knew again in that moment she was watching over me. I’d hardly ever had the time to take a holiday just to rest and relax because of my job and she’d always been telling me to slow down and take time to smell the flowers. She would have been so happy to see I was doing this for me.

But my first sign is still the best—her little memory garden under my bedroom window. How fitting that she wanted it there—where I can see it every day all spring, summer and fall, and think of how much she loved me, and how much I’ll always love her.

Thanks, Mom.

~Beckie Pruder

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