Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

May 3, 2009


In the spring when the flowers are blooming I think of Mama


            Flowers remind me of my mother. Mama loved flowers. She grew flowers. She knew flowers. Both her thumbs were green.

            Her yard covered probably two acres around the country home that she and Daddy built. She turned a briar patch into a marvelous flower garden.  Flowers were everywhere, along with hanging baskets, dozens of them. Amidst green ferns, there were always baskets of flowering plants swaying in the breeze. 

            Mama loved her life. Whether she was cooking, canning, or sewing, she loved what she was doing. But she especially loved to work in the yard. Coming back home, over the years, I could always expect to find Mama in her precious yard, defending her plants against the evil weeds.

            She hated nut grass. Her children, and her grandchildren, all remember how she recruited them to serve in her war against the nut grass and weeds that tried to choke her flowers.

            We thought she would slow down when one of her hips had to be replaced. But we were wrong. Unable to kneel, she sat in a chair and continued to tend her flowers.

            One day she fell and could not get up. No one else was home at the time but Daddy and he was so deaf he could not hear thunder. Her calls for help were unheeded for two hours. But even this was not enough to persuade her to stop working outside.

            My siblings and I agree that we have never known a more determined woman. We have no doubt that if she had ever tried to climb Mt. Everest, she would have made it to the summit.

            Canning food is dangerous work. But the danger did not stop Mama. One summer she accidentally spilled hot paraffin on her right hand and arm. Months of painful, tedious therapy followed before she could use that hand again.

            The injured hand kept her out of her flower beds are awhile, but it did not stop her. Her several pen pals needed to hear from her, so she learned to write with her left hand!

            She had a small green house for many years. There she guarded her tender plants during the winter months. Then, almost as if to honor Mama for her devotion to flowers, Daddy built her a huge green house with glass walls and ceiling. It was twice as big as most garages. In it he installed a sprinkler system and a gas furnace. She was so proud of her green house. Now she could really grow flowers!

            For some years Mama advertised and sold some of her flowers by mail, and to people who came to the house. She used the name, “Carrie’s Garden,” and we all liked it, though I never heard anyone call her Carrie. Her friends called her Caroline, which was her name. Her siblings all called Mama “Sister.”

            When my flowers are at their best, I wish so much that I could talk to Mama. I depended on her to know the names of so many flowers. She was a reservoir of information.

            Outside my study window there thrives a sturdy running rose bush. For several days, it has blessed me with clusters of beautiful, cascading white booms. Is this a floribunda rose?

            Since its stems are over six feet high, hanging gently on a trellis, it is probably a grandiflora. The flowers of grandifloras are larger, and the stems grow much taller than the floribundas. Mama would know.

            Mama was proud of her amaryllis plants. The appearance of an amaryllis bloom was a joyous moment she loved to share with family and friends.

            Just beyond my rose bush, peaking through some tall grass, gently shaded by the popcorn tree, are two gorgeous amaryllis blooms, bright red. They appeared a day or two ago. How long I have to enjoy their lovely blooms, I do not know. As long as they last, they will remind me of Mama, and how much she loved the amaryllis.

            These days the flowers make me think of Mama. She gave me a love for flowers that has enriched my life immeasurably. I wish I had thought to tell her that while she was still living. Life slips by so quickly, leaving many tender feelings unexpressed.  + + +