Everything's coming up new again in this compilation of inspiring stories.
Posted in , Feb 21, 2020
"Okay, now we’re ready,” my mother said as we gathered up our bags and headed out to the car. After a morning of tending our flower garden—my pride and joy—we spent the afternoon at the local five-and-dime store, where we gathered up tissue paper, ribbons, note cards and all the discounted Easter baskets we could fit into the shopping cart.
“Ready for what?” I asked.
“May baskets, for the first day of May,” she said. “When we get home, we’ll cut the flowers that are blooming in the garden and fill these baskets so that tomorrow morning we can get up bright and early and deliver them to our neighbors. We’ll ring the bell and run away before anyone can see who made the delivery! Doesn’t that sound like fun?” Her blue eyes sparkled.
Was she kidding? I had waited all winter for the flowers to bloom. We had worked on the garden for months, ever since we planted those first bulbs back in fall. It was our special mother-daughter project, and I had cherished the time we spent together. Now I wanted to cut the flowers for our own house, to put them in pretty vases and enjoy what we’d done together.
“Oh, Sweetie. Flowers are like kindness. They are meant to be shared. That’s the real beauty of a garden. You’ll see.” I doubted this, but I knew I didn’t have a choice.
Later that afternoon we snipped away our garden and arranged the bouquets. We tied each one together with ribbon, wrapped it in tissue paper, and put them all in the refrigerator to stay fresh overnight. I slept fitfully thinking about our empty garden.
In the morning, we loaded the bouquet-filled baskets and began our trek through the neighborhood. Mother handed me the first basket. “Now for the fun part!”
Holding hands, we ran to a front door, rang the doorbell and sprinted away. We crouched behind some shrubs and watched the door open and our neighbor look up and down the street. Her expression went from surprise to confusion to a delighted grin when she saw the May basket on her doorstep. “Thank you!” she called out to the street. She looked so happy, and it felt as if a whole beautiful garden bloomed inside of me.
Mother was right about the flowers. They were even prettier on someone else’s doorstep.
Shortly after my mother died, my father made an announcement. “This year we’re going to have peaches, I’m sure of it,” he said. I wished I could be. Three years ago, Mom and I had gotten him a peach tree for Father’s Day. He was delighted by the new addition to his garden and tended it carefully all summer long. That first year it produced just a handful of peaches, but we were positive it would give us more in another year.
Sure enough, the tree was in full bloom one year later. All three of us were so excited we spent the whole summer researching recipes—only for the blossoms to fall off without ever becoming fruit. Same thing the summer after that.
“What makes you think things will be different this year?” I asked. Dad grinned.
“Your mom is going to pull some strings for us this year,” he said, pointing to the sky. “She has friends in high places.” Of course we both knew she was in heaven with the angels.
As spring progressed, the peach tree bloomed with light pink blossoms that seemed to glow in the sunlight. When spring became summer, the flowers gave way to tiny fuzzy green balls. Dad and I watched them grow larger and the fruit turn rosy pink and coral. By summer’s end, we had a tree full of juicy peaches. The branches hung low with sun-ripe fruit. A bounty, sent by God, after an angel whispered in his ear.
My daughter, Esther, was not looking forward to Mother’s Day. She was getting divorced and this would be her first year as a single mom. “I don’t know if I can bring myself to celebrate this year,” she told me on the phone. “I’m not feeling like the best mom.” My heart ached. There was only so much I could do from 450 miles away. I sent her money to help with expenses, and I prayed for God to send her comfort and encouragement, but I wished I could do something more. I hung up the phone and stood there feeling totally helpless.
Please, Lord, give me an idea. I wasn’t feeling like I was the best mom either.
A couple of days later I was at my computer doing some online shopping when I came upon the perfect thing: a mug decorated with roses and irises and the words, “Daughter, you are a beautiful flower.” I ordered it for Esther immediately.
“Mom, I absolutely love the mug,” she said in her next call. “I’m going to start each day hearing you say those words. Thank you.”
The following spring I received a fat, squishy envelope. Tucked inside was a cross-stitch that Esther had designed herself. Bordered with pink roses, it read, “Mom, you are a beautiful flower.” I had to admit, having the best daughter in the world made me feel like a pretty good mom that Mother’s Day—and every day.
I hadn’t wanted to go to the pool. After a whole day walking around Disney World under the hot Florida sun, I was ready for a night in. I’d been sure that my wife, Molly, was too. She had a chronic illness and walking was difficult for her. Sometimes she had pain with each step. I had worried all day, scared she would overexert herself. So when the kids had asked to go to the pool, I’d been prepared to tell them no. Molly surprised me by insisting we go. “This is what a family vacation is all about, isn’t it?” she’d said. I’d agreed, reluctantly.
“Time to get out, kids!” I called as the sun began to set. They grabbed their towels and began the short walk back to our hotel room. We stopped when we saw yellow maintenance signs blocking the path. Closed. We’d have to take the long way around. I looked at Molly, hoping she’d see how sorry I was for this inconvenience. She just smiled.
“Good thing it’s such a beautiful night!” she said. As we started down the long path, I thought I detected the familiar limp in my wife’s gait. I wished I could just carry her. The kids bounced along, still dripping wet in the warm night. “Slow down!” I shouted at them, stress getting the better of me. They didn’t seem to hear me. I suddenly realized Molly was no longer next to me. Had she stopped to sit down? I turned around. Molly was on the side of the path by the shrubs, her nose buried in a white flower.
“Smell it,” she said. “It’s a gardenia!” I saw light in her eyes and knew what she meant: This was what a family vacation was all about. We would get back to the room slowly, stopping to smell the flowers along the way. Because there were always flowers.
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