Every mother has secrets. Some are dark — a deeply buried history of domestic violence or mental illness. But some are light — generations of wisdom on everything from gardening to cooking.
My mother died before I was fifteen. As a “liberated woman,” she turned her back on domestic wisdom. She had no helpful hints to give me regarding makeup, stain removal, cleaning, sewing, or baking. She was, in fact, terrible at all those things. She had a hell of a green thumb with houseplants. Our neighbors exclaimed over all the hanging baskets of greenery in our D.C. dining room. At the time, I shoved errant leaves out of my hair and glowered. Now I wish I’d asked how she did it.
As she had six children who survived, Mom undoubtedly had a ton of information on pregnancy and child-rearing. She died before she could pass any of it along. Mainly, I learned from her mistakes, vowing to marry later in life and use ALL the birth control.
When you’re in your twenties, you don’t think much about running a household or raising kids. But once I was married, with house and garden, I realized I didn’t know jack about flowers or pregnancy.
I wonder how many other women realize, after their mother is gone, that they’ve lost generations of useful info along with the person who loved them most in the world? A hundred years ago, other women in the community might have come forward to help a bereaved daughter. Now young women tend to leave home and live alone in the city, hanging out with other young women. Without a weekly call home to Mom for advice on some disaster, we’re on our own.
Luckily, we’ve got women bloggers. And sisters.
During one visit, Brilliant Blonde Lawyer Sister told me that those shoots I was weeding in my new yard were freesia.
I let those shoots sprout and discovered I had fragrant freesia and gorgeous gladioli. They’re perennials, which means they come back every year. (Husband complained about the profusion of pink gladioli until I reminded him that all those flowers are FREE.)
Turns out I also had some narcissus. I cut them and brought them inside. They fell over. I found a post about how a half-shot of gin in the water will keep your paperwhites upright. Apparently grandmas everywhere know this. I sometimes wonder what housewife hastily dumped her gin into her flowers during Prohibition and made this handy discovery. Whoever she was, I salute her.
I was lucky enough to have Judgmental Genius Doctor Sister, too. She’d had children before I did. She warned me I would feel like shit when pregnant. She was right, damn her.
And when I bled vaginally on a Sunday, all the OB’s answering service said was, “Call again tomorrow, go to an ER if it gets really bad.”
I looked in my pregnancy books. All they said was bleeding = miscarriage.
I called Dr. Sis, telling her I was probably losing the fetus, and that it was okay, it was undoubtedly because something was wrong–
She interrupted. “Is the blood bright red?”
“No, more brownish.”
“You’re fine. There’s a lot of extra blood in the cervix at this point. Some is going to leak out. If it isn’t bright red and heavy, it’s totally normal.”
“So the fetus doesn’t have two heads after all?”
“Probably not. Do you still feel like crap?”
“Yes. If I’m not actually throwing up, I feel like throwing up.”
“That’s a good sign.”
“Yeah, thanks, gotta go puke now, bye.”
Yesterday, my husband brought me tulips for Mother’s Day. I cut about an inch off the stems and put them in a vase. They began to droop.
“Maybe you can tie them up with a ribbon?” Andy suggested.
“Do we have any gin?” I asked.
He brought me a bottle and said, “You’re not really going to start drinking over drooping flowers.”
“Watch and learn, buddy.” I poured half a shot of gin into the vase.
This morning, my tulips stood tall.