Spring

A few days ago, I saw the first sign that it won’t be long until spring in my neck of the woods. Near my patio, a tiny bed of tulips and daffodils are poking up through the cold, damp soil.

My mama always loved spring. She was an avid gardener of both vegetables and ornamental plants. In the growing season, if you went to visit in the daylight hours, most likely, you’d find her outside rather than in. As an adult, I don’t know how many times I dropped by, calling out for her as I let myself in the front door without knocking, only to be greeted with silence. I’d make my way to the kitchen, look out the window, and there she’d be, most of the time, in the garden, but sometimes in the yard tending her flowers.

In late winter, she’d pour over seed catalogs she received through the mail. I’m not sure if she ordered anything—I think not—but she loved to window shop. She purchased most of her seeds and plants at the local Farmer’s Co-op Feed Store in early spring, and as soon as the soil was warm enough, planted her onion sets, potato cuttings, leaf lettuce, radishes, turnips, and other hardy plants and seeds. Soon it was on to cucumbers, squash, bell peppers, tomatoes, corn, carrots, beans, peas, and last but not least: okra. (Please forgive me, veggies, if I left some of you out.)

I know our garden was important in feeding our large family, especially in the early years; but Mama continued raising a big garden long after all of us were grown and gone, long after there was a monetary reason to do so. As the years went by, Daddy helped her more and more. And my brother and sister-in-law, who lived nearby, took over the most backbreaking work, enabling her to continue doing what she loved.

Mama surrounded our old house with all manner of flowering plants and shrubs. She loved anything that grew—she had to. What other reason than love would she have for spending hours tending vegetables, then still carve out time to work her flowers? And all this while holding down a job in town for a lot of those years.

During the last few months of my mama’s life, her mind was slipping away. She died in mid-January when a lot of the days were cold, dreary, and sometimes rainy, as it is here today. Quite a few times, when she was cognizant of the weather outside, especially when it was raining, she’d remark that she wished it would stop so she could get out in the garden. It broke my heart because I knew she would never walk those rows again. I’d tell her it was winter, and the garden was resting, and she should too; that come spring, she’d be out there again.

In the years since she has been gone, when spring comes and everything is green and growing, I take it all in and think how Mama would love it. Sometimes, I cry. Sometimes, I smile. And sometimes, I do both.

©️2020 KT Workman

Image via Pixabay

Bah Humbug

I don’t like Christmas—there, I said it.

But to be more precise, I don’t like what Christmas has become. It’s all about shopping, buying presents for family, friends, acquaintances—as well as “deals too good to pass up” for oneself—and trying to outdo one another to see who has the most expensive and elaborate decorations, both indoors and out. And cost be damned! If one has to put it on a credit card that most likely will not be paid off when next Christmas rolls around, so be it.

For many, Christmas has become a secular holiday wrapped up in rampant consumerism—not to mention poor Thanksgiving, which has been co-opted into the holiday buying frenzy). Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think buying gifts is necessarily a bad thing; I just think it has been taken to excess. And on top of that, many children, and probably some adults, don’t even know the true reason for the celebration: the birth of Christ.

I wasn’t raised in an overtly religious family. Yes, we went to church on Sunday, sometimes on Sunday and Wednesday nights, and occasionally to revivals; but God and Jesus were not frequent topics of conversation. My parents taught values by example. Both were soft-spoken and kind, but believed in discipline when needed; did their best to teach their seven children right from wrong; worked hard to take care of the family without government help; and were there to help extended family members and neighbors in their time of need. In reality, we weren’t much different from most other families of that era.

Christmas at our house was more of a celebration of family, though we all knew it was Christ’s birthday. And I don’t think He probably minded all that much. Mama cooked for several days to feed her husband and children—and later on, spouses, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren—a scrumptious Christmas dinner. When I was still at home, us kids received a few gifts, but nothing expensive. And looking back, something I gave instead of received, is my most treasured memory…

In the days leading up to Christmas, as all kids do, I pilfered around under the tree, looking at presents, looking for my name, and shaking those, of course. When I was about five or six, at a certain point in all the looking and shaking, I realized my mama didn’t have a present under the tree. And that made me sad.

I remember going into the kitchen where Mama was working (she was always working at something) and asking why she didn’t have anything under the tree. I don’t remember her answer, but she must have seen the distress on her youngest’s face. She didn’t tell me that providing Christmas for seven children put a severe strain on her and Daddy’s limited resources; she didn’t tell me they didn’t have the money to buy presents for each other; she offered up a solution instead. She gave me a powder compact she hadn’t yet opened, a small square of Christmas paper, and told me I could wrap it for her.

I still remember how good it made me feel to put that small present under the tree for my mama. And looking back, I think I realized that day that it is better to give than receive, whether it’s your time, talent, donating to charities—something other than buying presents that put you into debt, and/or will be shoved in a closet and forgotten by New Year’s Day. (My favorite charity is The Salvation Army, an organization that helps all regardless of race, creed, or sexual orientation—despite what you may have heard or read otherwise).

Some years ago, I quit the Christmas rat race of spend, spend, spend. I put up a tree, cook a nice meal for my family, and in the years that little ones are about, get them a simple, inexpensive gift. My present to all is the getting together of family, which is not always easy to accomplish in today’s busy world.

I am not a religious person, but I am one who believes in tradition. We so need tradition in the fractured society we live in, and I think Christmas affords us that opportunity to come together as a family and appreciate the fact that we are lucky enough to have one. And to look past differing opinions and beliefs, and all the other “differings” of our families and fellow humans, and realize we are much more the same than we are different.

Love and peace to all, and a very Merry Christmas.

©️2019 KT Workman

Photo via Pixabay

Nature or Nurture

My sisters, mother, and her mother all read extensively, my father and brother, not so much so. It didn’t dawn on me until I was an adult that only the women in my family were avid readers, and I wondered why that was so. My first thought was it had to do with genes, that only the females in my family had inherited the reading trait-if there is such a thing. Then it came to mind it might be learned behavior.

I don’t recall ever seeing my father read when I was growing up, but my mother was another story. She didn’t have much leisure time, taking care of a husband and seven kids, a farm/ranch, and holding down a job in town from time to time saw to that. But when she did have a minute or two free, it would be spent between the pages of a book.

Most of Mama’s days were spent moving from one chore to the next with no breaks in between; there was no time to read. So she made time. Most nights when she went to bed, she read for a while before turning off the lamp and settling in beside Daddy—if he was there and not working out of state. She traded much-needed sleep for the world of words.

When I was around four, Mama’s mother came to live with us after Grandpa died. Granny was a reader too. I remember sitting by her in the old wooden rocker she favored while she read to me in her soft, gentle voice. I remember wishing I could read for myself, and envying my brother and sisters who had been taught to read at school. I wanted to go to school and learn to read too (Once I got there, I hated it…a story for another time).

I don’t recall seeing my brother read a book. I think he was busy helping Daddy and doing guy things, and picking on me and another sister who were younger than he was. Maybe he thought reading wasn’t manly. I don’t know; you would have to ask him.

I have one child: a son who is not a reader. When he was small I read to him, and growing up, he saw me with my nose in a book every chance I got. Still, he didn’t read for pleasure. (He listens to books now, so I am at least grateful for that.) I wondered where I went wrong. Then all squinty-eyed I looked to his dad, an outdoorsman, and saw the problem. I had produced a child with a man with no interest in books.

I came to the conclusion that either my son did not inherit my love of reading, or by observing his father and other males in the family, subconsciously believed that reading was not an acceptable male pastime.

Nature or nurture, or a combination of both…I still don’t know the answer.

What do you think?

©️2019 KT Workman

Photo via Pixabay

A Taste of Heaven

When I was growing up, summer was synonymous with blackberry season. I monitored the thorny vines from the first appearance of the delicate white blossoms, through the ripening stage—impatiently eating more than a few of the hard, red, sour berries—to when they were gloriously plump and black and juicy. A little taste of heaven.

Barefoot and wearing shorts, my brother, sister, and I roamed the fence rows and overgrown fields in our search for the most succulent berries, which in many cases were just out of reach. When that happened, we had to go in. There was no passing by those perfect specimens just because of a few thorns.
We learned how to avoid getting scratched and poked, how to gingerly grasp each spiny vine between thumb and forefinger, ease it to the side and slide forward through the tangled mess, over and over, until we had worked our way to the prize. Then we had to work our way back out. Despite our best efforts, many times we didn’t emerge completely unscathed; instead, occasionally we sported battle wounds of bloody scratches on arms and legs. But those luscious berries were worth it. And the inevitable chigger bites were worth it as well.

Mama picked the berries too, but not for herself as did her greedy kids. She canned them in quart jars, and they joined our substantial larder to be made into blackberry cobblers in the winter months. And as long as the vines produced, we had cobblers during the summer too. When us kids could control ourselves, not eat everything we picked, all we had to do was take a pail of berries to Mama, and she’d make a cobbler.

Lord knows how many years it’s been since I’ve tasted blackberries as sweet and juicy as those wild ones of my childhood. My son cultivates the thornless variety, but just like any other plant that scientists have fiddled with, they aren’t on quite the same par as the original. Yes, they’re good, but in my opinion, a bit of flavor has been sacrificed along with the thorns. And they aren’t as juicy; when making a cobbler, one has to squish them a bit before baking to get an adequate amount of juice.

Or perhaps does the blame for the loss of flavor rest with my aging taste buds?

Or the viewing of my childhood through rose colored glasses, where everything appears better and grander?

The only way to know for sure would be to travel back in time and conduct a taste test, pop a few blackberries in my mouth and see if they are as special as I remember. Only thing with that is I might never come back, and mess up the whole space-time continuum. I don’t think the government would let me do that.

Damn government!

©️2019 KT Workman

Photo via Pixabayhttp://www.pixabay.com

The Faded Woman

Martha was a ghost of a woman. She disappeared into her surroundings, blending in as if she were no more than a sheet of wallpaper, sporting bras, hose, and socks, pasted behind the pegs of merchandise she stocked. Like a chameleon, her form merged with her environment.

Day after day, her soft, pasty body trudged up and down the lingerie aisles of the superstore, pushing a shopping cart bristling with a flashy array of leopard-print panties, bright red teddies, and other exotic intimate apparel; but unlike the garments she put out for sale, Martha was anything but colorful.

Thin, straight hair the shade of week-old coffee hung dull and lifeless to her shoulders. Stringy tendrils obscured her downturned face. Pale and rounded and malleable, she was kneaded dough, punched down and waiting for a rise that never happened. When she spoke to a customer—and she only did that when forced to—Martha’s eyes stayed on the wood-laminated floor. Even her “May I help you?” and “Have a nice day.” were smothered things spoken barely above a whisper on good days, and on bad days, a tired, almost-inaudible sigh of sound.

And there were plenty of bad days, days when her head felt as if it were a ball of unmitigated pain that had been created for no other purpose than to punisher her because she wasn’t a good enough daughter, a good enough wife, but most of all, a good enough mother. Martha endured the frequent migraines without complaint, a firm believer that her suffering was atonement for past mistakes, and when God thought she had paid enough, the attacks would cease. And though she told none of her coworkers when she was in the throes of a migraine, a glimpse of her features told the tale—red-rimmed eyes sunk into dark hollows on an otherwise skim milk face.

But regardless of how she felt, Martha plodded through the days, doing her job and doing it well so that at the end of the week she could collect her meager paycheck. Not for herself, but for her two grown daughters and their children. She was determined that her daughters would never do without as she had. Yes, she would always be there for them, paying their rent, buying their groceries, providing whatever their respective husbands didn’t for as long as she had a breath left in her body.

Martha’s children and grandchildren were her life. Only in their presence did her eyes sparkle, her lips curve in a smile, her round shoulders square. Other employees took note of Martha’s transformation when her daughters came into the store; it was like seeing her for the first time. One worker said, “You know, I never realized it before, but Martha’s kind of pretty.” And another remarked on the lovely green shade of her eyes.

Then her family would leave, and Martha would fade away once more, becoming as translucent as the pantyhose tucked inside the packages she placed neatly on shelves. A see-through woman. Barely there at all.

©️2019 KT Workman

Photo via Pixabay

A Father

What makes up a good father?

I would imagine there are as many answers to that question as there are people. And I would imagine that most answers would be influenced by what one’s own father brought to the table, or what he lacked in parental skills.

My father was “Daddy” to us kids, and later on, “Pa” to his grandchildren and great grandchildren. His oldest grandchild, Johnny, christened him Pa—probably short for grandpa—and it stuck. It suited my dad; he was an informal man.

To me, he was a perfect father, or as close to perfect as one can be. He got to be the fun parent, and to my mom fell the roll of disciplinarian. Looking back, I can see how it worked out that way. When I was a child, Daddy was gone a good part of the year, working as a lumberjack in Northern California, while Mama kept the home fires burning. When Daddy came home for a while in winter, it was almost like a holiday.

My earliest memory of him is him holding me up in the air, and me looking down at the humongous grin on his face. My last was the final words he spoke, at the age of ninety-four, before he closed his eyes for the last time: “I think I’m gonna go find Ma’am now.” Ma’am (what he called Mama) had passed away a little over a year previously.

And in between, so many memories—

Daddy playing the harmonica, and singing “Bimbo”. Holding my hands while bouncing me on his foot. Rubbing my cheek with his whiskers while I shrieked in delight. Running and jumping onto his lap when I had gotten in trouble with Mama, and him telling her not to spank me, I’d be good. Watching boxing on TV, grunting and shifting in his chair as if he were in the ring. Walking out among his cows, patting their backs and calling them by name. Saying grace over our meals. Laughing when I accidentally drank from his glass of buttermilk (I sat beside him) and sputtered at the awful taste. And many more…

My memories of him during my teenage years was more of a strong background presence that anchored our family. Like most children of that age, I had pulled away from my parents.

After I married and became a parent, I came to appreciate my daddy, to realize how blessed I had been, and still was, to have both him and Mama, two normal people who loved each other, and their children. And who had done their best to give us a good life, a happy life.

My daddy took my husband, who had lost his father at an early age, under his wing, and loved him as if he were his own son. My husband adored Daddy, and took him hunting and fishing, looking after him as Daddy grew older and not as strong and sure footed.

As Daddy got along in years, I remember his stories most of all. My siblings and I, along with our spouses and children, always gathered at my parents house every Sunday afternoon. Sitting at the kitchen table, Daddy spun tales of his childhood, times in California, his and Mama’s courtship, and everything else under the sun. And he was good at it, had us all laughing and asking questions.

There’s so much more to him than I can even begin to relate here. He was more than just a good father; not perfect, but he was a good man, a kind man. He is the standard against which I judge all men. And not many have measured up.

If there is an afterlife, I’m sure my daddy is there, he and Mama raising crops and kids. And I’d like to think he knows how much I love him, how much all his children love him, and knows what an inspiration he was to all who knew him—and Lord knows, there were many. He touched a lot of lives.

As he touched mine.

So on this day, and every Father’s Day since he has been gone, I look up and say, “Happy Father’s Day, Daddy…your baby sure does love you.”

©️2019 KT Workman

Photo via Pixabay

Forest For The Trees

Brizzle saw them first and alerted the rest of us. I had heard about the two-limbed creatures, but had never seen one. Soon I would. I wondered if I would survive it.

Twink brushed against me. “Will they kill us, Faust?”

The agitation of the cluster vibrated through me like the passing of the furry, horned ones. Everyone was scared. Everyone wondered if the stories we had been told when we were saps were true and not just made-up. You behave now, or the two-limbs will get you, the old ones had threatened.

“The two-limbs will not harm you,” I said to Twink.

A flurry of movement accompanied a ragged cackle. “Do not lie to the sap.” Old Clartha shook a withered, brown limb at me. “They will kill every last one of us, given time.”

Twink shook. The other little saps nearby trembled as well.

“Do not pay any attention to her,” I said. “The sky-fire has affected her mind.”

Old Clartha’s good side swayed toward me. “I might be old and half-dead, but I have not forgotten what was told to me by my mother-tree, and her mother-tree before her, and farther back still.”

Twink said, “What did she tell you?” Her question was echoed over and over by all the younger ones in the cluster. Saps were so curious; they always wanted to know the whys and wherefores of everything. Continue reading Forest For The Trees

The Barn

The barn was a big part of my childhood. It had always been there, and it had always been old. But long before I entered the world, the barn had once stood new and proud on a ranch/farm that would one day belong to my parents.

According to what Daddy said before he passed away, Mama bought the barn and house, and the land both occupied, while he was away working as a lumberjack in far-off California. They’d been living in a little three-room house on land owned by Daddy’s parents when the place went up for sale. Mama called Daddy and he told her to buy it. And if memory serves me correctly (Bear in mind that I am going on what others have told me; I wasn’t even born yet.), Mama moved my older siblings in, lock, stock, and barrel, all on her own. No indoor plumbing, no electricity, but to my parents and brothers and sisters, that place became home. And after I was born, it became my home as well.

I have often wondered about the family who lived there before us. And I wondered what that old barn had seen in its heyday. All I know is what it saw when it came into my family’s possession, and maybe a little of what it heard and felt.

Laughing kids playing in its rafters, building hidey-holes in the bales of hay stored there for feeding the cattle in winter. Daredevil kids scaling its gray, splintered walls to stand on top of its rusty, sheet-iron roof to look out upon the field, barn lot, and small calf-pasture surrounded by woods that stretched out as far as the eye could see.

Mama standing by the gate that led out into the field, calling the milk cow in her own unique way. I didn’t understand the soo-wees and other noises that went into it, but the milk cow did. She trotted or meandered, depending on her mood, to the wide gate made out of crossed boards and cedar poles, and Mama let her into the barn lot, then inside the barn. There, Mama had a big pan of cotton-seed hulls ready, and while the cow ate, she milked. On the ground nearby, an old pie plate awaited a few well-aimed squirts of fresh milk for the barn cats. I remember that at least on one occasion, a contrary milk cow kicked off Mama’s glasses, and she called a couple of us kids out there to help her find them.

And I remember the calves born inside that barn. In cold weather, my daddy kept a close eye on the pregnant cows, and when their times came, he herded them inside and out of the elements for the birth, and for protection the first few crucial days afterward. Sometimes the birth was difficult, and Daddy had to help by reaching inside and turning the calf so the front hooves came out first. He couldn’t save every calf in distress, and it was sad when he couldn’t. But we all rejoiced—and maybe the barn did too—when a little, wet calf took its first wobbling steps and suckled.

The barn served as protection for our food as well. In a shed separated from the main part of the barn, we laid out freshly dug potatoes on clean hay and sprinkled them with lime to keep them from absorbing moisture and rotting. One year, we had drying peanut plants hanging from the rafters. I remember sitting up amongst the hay bales cracking the hulls open and popping nuts into my mouth.

Near the barn, an old oak spread its shading limbs over the feedlot. My brother nailed a few boards to form a platform high in the oak’s sturdy branches, and we christened it “The Tree House”. I bet that old barn heard me sitting up there singing or talking to myself—two things I still do to this day—after my older siblings pushed and pulled me up into The Tree House and left me there while they went off to play. Maybe it enjoyed my singing. Maybe it laughed when I carried on conversations with imaginary friends. I’d like to think it did.

The barn is no longer there. Quite a few years ago, it was torn down before it completely collapsed, and a new one took its place. But that old barn, the smell of it—hay and manure—will stay with me for the rest of my life. Those two combined odors symbolize home to me. Security and warmth. Love and family.

A lot of people might shake their heads, and think, “Poor girl, poor children, to grow up so deprived.” But we were never deprived. We had plenty to eat, a fireplace to warm us—one side at a time—and a mother and father who put their children first in every aspect of their lives.

And we had a barn.

And it had us.

© 2019 KT Workman

Parable of Motherhood

When my mother died in 2003, my sister’s friend sent her this. I think it’s the most touching piece of writing I have ever read about mothers.
For all of you out there whose mother has passed on, this is for you…

Parable of Motherhood
By
Temple Bailey

The young mother set her foot on the path of life. “Is the way long?” she asked. And her guide said, “Yes, and the way is hard. And you will be old before you reach the end of it. But the end will be better than the beginning.” But the young mother was happy and she would not believe that anything could be better than those years. So she played with her children and gathered flowers for them along the way and bathed them in the clear streams; and the sun shone on them and life was good, and the young mother cried, “Nothing will ever be lovelier than this.”

Then night came, and storm, and the path was dark and the children shook with fear and cold, and the mother drew them close and covered them with her mantle and the children said, “Oh Mother, we are not afraid, for you are near, and no harm can come,” and the mother said, “This is better than the brightness of day, for I have taught my children courage.”

And the morning came, and there was a hill ahead and the children climbed and grew weary, and the mother was weary, but at all times she said to the children, “A little patience and we are there.” So the children climbed and when they reached the top, they said, “We could not have done it without you, Mother.” And the mother, when she lay down that night, looked up at the stars and said, “This is a better day than the last, for my children have learned fortitude in the face of hardness. Yesterday I gave them courage, today I have given then strength.”

And with the next day came strange clouds which darkened the earth, clouds of war and hate and evil–and the children groped and stumbled, and the mother said, “Look up. Lift your eyes to the light.” And the children looked and saw above the clouds an Everlasting Glory, and it guided them and brought them beyond the darkness. And that night the mother said, “This is the best day of all for I have shown my children God.”

And the days went on, and the weeks and the months and the years, and the mother grew old, and she was little and bent. And her children were tall and strong and walked with courage. And when the way was rough they lifted her, for she was as light as a feather; and at last they came to a hill, and beyond the hill they could see a shining road and golden gates flung wide. And the mother said, “I have reached the end of my journey. And now I know that the end is better than the beginning, for my children can walk alone and their children after them.” And the children said, “You will always walk with us, Mother, even when you have gone through the gates.”

And they stood and watched her as she went on alone, and the gates closed after her. And they said, “We cannot see her, but she is with us still. A mother like ours is more than a memory. She is a Living Presence.”

Shelter From The Storm

Here in the South, spring ushers in our first tornado season.

“First?” you say.

“Yes,” says I. “First.”

Unlike Tornado Alley that lies in the Midwest and has one tornado season, we here in Dixie Alley are blessed with two. We have the traditional spring tornado season of March, April, and May; then in fall, November, and December. In Tornado Alley, it’s usually too cold in the fall for tornadoes to form, but owing to the South’s lower latitude, we have more low pressure systems that breed tornado-producing storms.

The majority of our twisters are mindful of the two seasons in Dixie Alley, but there are renegades out there that can strike any month, any week, any day of the year.

Aren’t we blessed?

Earlier today as thunderstorms rumbled over my house in the city, my mind slipped back in time, way back, to my childhood country home and a stormy night that stands out in my memory…

When I was small, my daddy worked far from home in California as a lumberjack. He was gone a good portion of the year, returning in the winter for a few months before going back to make the money he couldn’t make here. That left my mama to take care of a bunch of kids, livestock, and everything else on our farm/ranch. At the time, Mama’s aged mother and uncle lived with us. She had her hands full.

I was such a wee thing, I don’t remember many details of the turbulent night Mama took us all to The Bluff. I do remember being scared, though, and I suppose Mama was too or she wouldn’t have attempted to herd a bunch of kids, and her mother and uncle up the steep, wooded hillside behind our house to the only place she thought might shelter us: The Bluff.

That’s how my siblings and I refer to it—The Bluff, a proper noun. That rocky crag holds a prominent place in my childhood, a place where we all played, and later on our children played, and some great grandchildren as well.

But I digress…

There’s an area of The Bluff where it forms an overhang, and as added protection, a half-buried, humongous rock lies in front of the overhang with just enough room between the rock and bluff for a handful of bodies. That’s where Mama took us.

I remember an upward trek, a dark night and flashes of lightning, bobbing beams from a flashlight(s), labored breathing. And yes, I remember being scared. But I also remember feeling that I would be okay because I was with Mama.

And isn’t that what we all want, to feel safe? Not just from tornadoes but from everything in life that can harm us.

Mama was my shelter from the storm. Long ago, I learned to deal with (metaphorically) standing outside in the wind and rain with not even a flimsy umbrella to protect me. But I still miss the security, the feeling of safety, the knowledge that everything would be all right, my mother’s mere presence provided.



©️2019 KT Workman

Header photo via Pixabay

Bluff photo courtesy of Kenneth Snow

Mama’s Garden

I have a lot of good memories of my mama, some of them, surprisingly, from the time she was dying.

A little back history for clarification—

By the time she was in her late 80s, Mama’s heart was failing from simply being “worn out,” as her doctor put it. Knowing her time was limited, she asked not to be taken to the hospital under any circumstances, to be allowed to die at home. My siblings and I honored her wishes. We arranged our schedules so two of us could be there around the clock to care for her, supplemented with visits from hospice. During this four-month period, a lot of Mama-memories were added to my considerable store, some heart wrenching, some bittersweet, and all priceless.

One day in early fall, I was with Mama when she wanted to see her garden. I’m sure she missed it. She had always enjoyed “digging in the dirt,” whether it was working in her flower beds or tending the large vegetable patch behind the house. Over the years, when I dropped by to visit, if the weather was passable, many times that’s where I’d find her. I think for her the inside of the house was of secondary importance—except for cooking, but that’s another story.

That day, my sister, brother and his wife were there as well, and the four of us got Mama into a wheelchair and rolled her outside into the warm, sunny day.

We started across the bumpy yard, brother pushing the chair, and were doing fine until he hit a chughole in the thick Bermuda grass. The wheelchair stopped abruptly and Mama almost shot out of it. Of all things, she burst out laughing, and with a smidgen of relief that she had stayed put in the chair, the four of us laughed along with her.

Then we were off again, a bit more slowly this time.

When we reached the edge of the garden, brother parked the chair and set the brake. Mama looked out over plants that were still mostly green and growing, saying nothing. I couldn’t help but wonder what was going through her mind, how she felt about not being able to do what she had always done, how she couldn’t just get out of that chair, walk out in the rows and start weeding.

I don’t remember if sister, brother, sister-in-law, or I talked to fill the silence; all I remember is feeling sad as I stood there staring at Mama’s garden. And I remember wishing, as I had many times after Mama’s health started deteriorating, that I could give her some of my healthy years. But life doesn’t work that way, and she wouldn’t have taken them if such a thing had been possible. Mamas aren’t like that.

After a time, Mama closed her eyes and turned her pale face to the sun. And smiled.

That beautiful smile took away a little of my sadness, and lives on in my memory, warming my heart until the day I can see it again.

©️2019 KT Workman