By: Anne Maxwell
I’m fortunate enough to have many shared moments with my mom captured in photographs.
There’s the one with my mom holding me over the baptismal font as I received my first sacrament from our parish priest on a summer Sunday morning. She’s pictured standing with me in my scarlet cap and gown on the front lawn of my high school immediately following graduation. And she’s with me in a moment of love and prayer before I walked down the aisle to take vows on my wedding day.
There’s countless other photos of my mom and me. But there’s only one that’s my favorite.
It’s about 20 years old now and unlike those I have mentioned, this one was taken on a rather ordinary day, void of any baptisms, graduations, or weddings. It is a moment captured six months after my husband and I had moved our young family. Our two oldest were back then our only two, and until that time we had always lived within an hour or less away from family. But opportunity had knocked, and we had jumped at the chance.
I knew it would be difficult being further away from family with two little ones, and it was. Getting a sitter for the occasional date night was near impossible, and having help from grandparents when a kiddo spiked a fever in the middle of the night before an important meeting at work the next day was out of the question as it would mean a 500-mile round trip.
We were making the best of things and overall, life was going well. I had anticipated some adjustments, but there were more difficult days than I’d bargained for. It came down to the fact that I hadn’t planned for how much I would simply miss my mom.
So, when she called one day to announce that she and dad would be coming to visit for a weekend that first spring after we’d moved, I was beyond excited.
“What do you want to do?” I asked, thinking about the possibility of eating out, shopping, going to see a movie or taking the girls to the zoo.
“We just want to see you,” she’d answered.
When they arrived a few days later, it only took pulling into our driveway for her to determine just how we could fill some time.
My dad is a farmer, but make no mistake; my mom has a green thumb as well. I can never remember a time that their homestead hasn’t hosted colorful flower beds, blossomed bushes, and trimmed grass. Considering she’s gardening on the arid plains of western Kansas, that’s saying something.
So with just one glance at my yard, it was more than evident to mom we needed landscaping assistance.
“Tomorrow, we’re going to the greenhouse and we’re going to get your yard ready for spring,” she declared. It was as if Mary Poppins had dropped in with pruning shears and a sunhat rather than an umbrella.
I agreed, even though gardening was obviously not my favorite hobby. But I was not one for arguing with mom, or turning down agrarian assistance.
So, early on Saturday, off we went. The girls picked out blossoms in some of their favorite color, with mom adding her expertise. Once we got back home, bushes were trimmed, the dead of winter cleared, and mulch spread. A large flower bed on the corner of the yard was particularly overwhelming to me. I had no idea even where to begin.
“You just start planting,” Mom said, digging new homes for some of her favorites in the lonely soil. Verbena, marigolds, snapdragons, and petunias all got a start that day and a healthy dose of watering from the girls who were ready to hose down anything that stood still.
Honestly, until that day, I had always dreaded shopping for flowers and planting. I’d worry about what would live, what would die, and whether or not anything would look good.
But that day, next to mom with our hands in the dirt, I felt something different.
Happiness in just being there with my mom. No matter what we were doing.
We posed for a photo after we were done with the plant-a-thon, with wide smiles over all we’d accomplished and the promise of what could grow at this new home I was making with a family all my own.
And, that was the moment captured in the photo I cherish above all others.
It’s spring now and again, I’m missing my mom, who still lives four hours away. With all that’s going on in the world, it’s not just distance keeping us apart this time.
So I’ve been spending a lot of time sitting on my patio surrounded by my flowers thinking of that afternoon in the dirt, remembering the photo, and the roots mom helped me establish that day.
When I do, I don’t miss mom quite so much.
And I feel happy.
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