Yesterday, the scent of the basil I’d picked for our daughter to take back to Halifax lingered on my fingers for a long time. She also took with her some sage (advice), rosemary (for remembrance) and a golden zucchini from her aunt Sarah’s allotment – all the better to help her celebrate her last week before art school begins.
Our mother also went to art school, and was a medal-winning textile artist before she became a full-time mother. She was also a gifted botanical painter. Today, would have been her 80th birthday. In one of life’s strange synchronicities, our mum was about my daughter’s age when I was born, and she was about my age now when she died.
Unlike Helenium or Helen’s flower for Frances of Faire Garden, I can’t plant a flower called Jean Eleanor or Bunty in my mother’s name – unless someone can tell me that one exists. Instead, I remember her with a bouquet of flowers that she found special: geranium, marigold, or petunia (for her many balcony gardens), columbine (her father’s favourite), scarlet runner (a “perennial” in all her gardens), China aster (the birthday flower she used to plant for me).
For a while when our mother had an in-ground garden, I was at university, too, and she would send me off after a visit with herbs, flowers and the occasional monster zucchini. Somewhere in space and time, she’s probably out there hunting up new zucchini recipes or making lists of bulbs to plant for spring. A package of mail-order Asiatic lilies was the last gift she gave to Sarah and I. Some of them were still providing fodder for the lily beetles this summer.
Happy birthday, Mum. Let me just put on the kettle, and we can have a cup of tea together in the garden.