“If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.” ― Marcus Tullius Cicero
Since I can remember, Mother was always around me making things happen. She was a school teacher, piano teacher, community volunteer, cook, athlete, gardener. She was the powerhouse of the family. Mother made both our gardens and our libraries at home, and I learned as much from the one as from the other over the years. My favorites in her library were a small soft blue book of Confucius writings – a gift from her brother who lived in China – and from her college days, her little worn red books of Plato, Socrates, Sophocles.
Mother never got sick of our needs or complaints. She got up at 4:30 in the morning and went to sleep at 11 in the evening. When I was very small, I had the impression that she never slept at all, like the gods, I imagined. Many of my fictional stories center on love of the mother, or missing the mother, or what happens without her. “Summer Off” in Death and the Dream, is about a child left with the extended family for vacation, where she is missing her mother. The more haunting “Mother’s Love” is about the lengths a daughter would go to in order to regain lost mother’s love. And “Before the Funeral” centers on a middle-aged woman’s musings before her mother’s funeral on the following day.
My own mother was always working. She was teaching small children to play piano, or she was writing up articles or grants. She was creating flower gardens and building stone walls around them, watering the vegetable gardens. She was harvesting all the wonderful gifts that miraculously appeared at her touch from that other mother, mother earth. Mother put up applesauce, elderberry jam, took me along to Round Top Mountain in the Catskills to harvest wild blueberries for jam that lasted our family all winter. She boiled the glass jars to put up tomato sauce and applesauce and cucumber pickles that lasted us the year. We made so much mint jelly and apple jelly that we were able to give the pretty jars away on holidays. She didn’t like to buy things and always said something I made myself was infinitely better than anything I could buy. I wrote her many poems, and drew her many pictures. If I bought her something, it had to be a book or a plant.
My one Mother was power and productivity. My other Mother, Mother Earth was magical, and they were in a perfect kind of harmony like twins. When one was lacking the other was always present, and together they made a little heaven for me until I learned to make my own.
Thank you Mother for the gardens. Thank you Mother for the library. Thank you for Confucius and Plato and basil and mint. Thank you for all the things you shared with me, as the angel of my childhood life.