There she is. Mrs. McCarthy, as they called her at the High School, or as I called her in the grocery store when she wouldn't turn around after I yelled MOM! a thousand times.
If you said Mrs. McCarthy she would turn around and give you her full attention, unless it turned out that you were calling her Mrs. McCarthy because you knew she had been deliberately ignoring your poorly behaved self as you wandered the aisles begging for a treat until she had no alternative but either lose her mind or push the cart forward and pretend she didn't know you.
My mom, who wants you to know she is either sweet 16 or 105, whichever you prefer, has been on the planet long enough to learn a few things. One of them, is how to lower your center of gravity so when your children try to pick you up they can't actually do it.
Except for this one time...
We were in Alton's Drugstore in Naperville, Illinois. My little sister and I had been trying to lift her off her feet for YEARS, and through some amazing convergence of events, we successfully caught my mother just before she could lower her center of gravity and lifted her into the grocery cart.
None of the three of us could believe it. The achievement shocked us into silence. We had to lift her out of the cart, and then she just walked out of the store. My sister and I just looked at each other. My little sister doesn't even remember it, and my Mom will swear it never happened, but you and I know the truth. It did.
My saintly Mother.
We were the four McCarthy children, born of a Northside/Southside marriage, to parents who each had only one parent from the time they were young. We did what was required of every child growing up: having opinions, testing limits, lifting each other into grocery carts...and they did their part. Trying to hold back the young hellions from their own untimely demise, trying to hold back the riptides of the past, and trying to prepare their children for a future none of us could have anticipated.
This makes me think of my garden.
Over the course of the 20 years we’ve lived in this house I have invested the proverbial blood, sweat, and tears, as well as copious financial resources, into a garden that for whatever reason simply will not take. I have even had a garden service keep the earth around my fledgling plants weed free to support their growth!
When I talked this over with a dear friend, she said the focus on keeping the planting beds "clean" means the soil has received no nourishment, and that those patches of dirt, weed free as they may be, will admit no flowers. Even the vinca vine bought from a reputable establishment only hunkers down in its own little cluster, and though its branches reach towards each other from plant to plant, each year the attempt seems a little more halfhearted.
But you know what? I was looking in the wrong place.
Just this week, I happened to notice that the vinca vine I planted under my yew bushes jumped the cement sidewalk into my neighbor's garden, where. it. is. THRIVING!
This makes me think of my Mom.
Much of the good my Mom, at great personal expense, tried to do to get me to bloom in the direction she thought I should go, might look to her like it did not take.
But just like the vinca, the gifts she gave me made me blossom in the exact WAY she hoped I would, just not blossom HOW she thought I would.
This seems like an apt metaphor on Mother’s Day. As anyone who has ever brought something to life knows, all the good we do is never lost. It always turns into something.
I can only reflect gratefully on the way my Mom provided a sturdy back stop for the inevitable projections and rejections we kids had to hurl upon her and my Dad to blossom in our own ways.
I think of them when I am called to do the same with the people I love, to support them in becoming themselves in the way that suits them best, not me. And I'd like to think that anyone who does that with anyone else, deserves warm Mother's Day greetings, today and every day.