What Vera Believed In – (and Love-Pancakes)

“Days may not be fair – Always

That’s when I’ll be there – Always”

Years back when my four kids were small, they liked to make me breakfast in bed on Mother’s Day – pancakes fashioned to look like the word L-O-V-E, served with toast and pb and j because they could make that too, alongside cold scrambled eggs and tea – as they hadn’t mastered timing. Their dad, amused by their muddled efforts, stayed hands off and kept a secret for me, which was that on a day when I could supposedly choose my activities the garden had called to me. So while our two girls and two boys were arguing about who would carry the tray to their sleepy mom I was actually outside listening to birds sing with my hands in the soil, weeding around pansies and tulips, freshening up raspberry canes. 

My husband would distract the kids, I’d sneak back inside, go from dusty garden attire back to pj’s, climb into bed and wait for all their happy faces and my curvy pancakes. When they got bored watching me eat, I’d be able to stop forcing down cold eggs and toast with gobs of peanut butter, and maybe get back to the robins chirping and dividing a bag of glad bulbs up for me and my own mom. 

From there, having had my blissful gardening fix, I’d have gone in to make a (hot) brunch for my parents or maybe a fancy dinner later with my mom’s favorite rice pudding for dessert – the notion of Mother’s Day off a silly sort of fantasy with four feisty kids, my mom to spoil and sometimes my mom-in-law too. 

     With those four kids grown and my sons living away, one of my thoughtful daughters, (the oldest a mom herself), will always make me a Mom’s Day brunch or lunch – I wouldn’t mind if it still was wiggly pancakes spelling out L-O-V-E. I wish like mad that I could make love pancakes for my own dear mom, but she’s left us now. I have more time to garden these days, but I make a point of doing it on Mother’s Day because it is amongst the fresh rose branches and the new shoots of phlox and the pointy arrows of peonies starting to reach for the light, that I feel closest to my mom. 

When we needed a family-sized home my husband and I bought my parent’s place and they downsized. While we’ve renovated the house, and even changed the landscaping, the foliage – giant evergreens, bushy lilacs, resilient bleeding hearts, frothy nan king cherry, and my favourite hollyhocks – were started by my mom’s creative green thumb. I feel I’m tending her garden, googling guidance to make her special rose bush blossom (the one used for rose petal jelly) and to correctly prune the spreading lilacs. This will only be the second Mother’s Day without my mom at our table, telling me it’s too soon to put geraniums out, to just be patient. She’d be okay with me popping my sweet pea seeds into the ground though. 

    It’s been a good week for horticulture – windy maybe, but not too hot or cold. I’ve sat on the grass pulling out the darn creeping bell flower and thought lots about my little mom – (she was much shorter than I am) – she was quiet but wise, not prone to sharing her worries. She nurtured her soul tending to her garden, but nurtured ours with her love-labour of making jam and jelly for our winter toast, by baking for us all year – apple and berry pies, spicy ginger snaps, and snicker doodles, lemon loaves and her magical chocolate cake. While I sat on the lawn beside that favorite rose, which will blossom with fluffy layers of pastel pink flowers, I thought I’d text my four kids my own Mother’s Day message about their grandma. She left us two years ago next month and I’d like to share the goodness of what she believed in. I want to remind them that their Grandma believed: 

That flowers are necessary for the soul.

And tending to even a tiny garden will lift the spirit.

In offering food and drink to anyone that passes through your door. 

In dropping off treats to people having troubles. 

That making your bed first would start your day right.

She believed in offering a helping hand. 

And in making old-fashioned phone calls to reconnect. 

To never visit a friend empty handed. 

She believed in making Sunday dinner special.

It’s Canada. Always bring a sweater, she said.

She believed in the magic of a good chocolate cake.

She believed in going barefoot.

She believed in treating her adult kids to weekends away by babysitting for us. 

She especially believed in celebrating family birthdays, all the holidays, and New Year’s Day dinner. 

She believed in being good. She was good. She would have especially believed in L-O-V-E pancakes. 💕

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A Magical Backyard Garden – My Inherited Mom’s Day Gift

Mother’s Day and the Gift of the Backyard Garden

Vibrant little green peas, the smell of carrots with specks of soil still clinging to them, earth with the aroma of green onions – the promise of the backyard feeds my soul. Every May the calendar days around Mother’s Day and my internal genetic calendar push me to turn over my tiny plot of soil, buy a handful of pretty seed packages, and tuck their contents into rows ready to water.  It’s a tradition passed on to me from my mom and her mother, like colouring Easter eggs around Good Friday, and picnics on a blanket on a warm summer day.

nanny's yard picnic

On Mother’s Day when my four kids were little and excited to make me a tray in bed with the most delicious passion-filled luke warm pancakes, overcooked eggs, and bowl of Captain Crunch, I would elicit their dad to help me sneak pass them because always at that time of year the empty garden spots among the blossoming trees were just begging me to prance around on the dewy lawn and be lifted up by the best work I know. I’d run back to bed for my tray of child-love when it was ready.

My mom taught me the simple beauty and deep satisfaction of the vegetable garden. It was her favorite work too. She has five children and I have four. Raising a family is chaotic and chore-filled, and raising a garden takes you into another space for a short reprieve from groceries and laundry, meals and cleaning, ferrying little ones from here to there. Somehow in the garden you find time to dream a little dream while kneeling in the soft grass with seeds in hand, pushing aside an earth worm, thinking about how the summer might go, of people standing barefoot picking peas, or biting into the strawberries the squirrels don’t steal. It’s time away from time.

nanny and roses

I joke with my family that, “It’s all going to be okay. I’ve got the fall harvest in,” when in reality my eight by six foot bed of vegetables only supplies a few colourful meals and delightful raw snacks, not like my grandmother’s farm garden that was needed for survival ‘in the early days’. Still after retiring to the luxuries of town, my Nanny, an image of independence, planted a back yard garden; hills of potatoes and squash, rows of beans and peas, carrots and beets, circled by cornflowers and raspberries, and she did that until she was ninety-four-years old.  It’s my inherited Mother’s Day gift, from my mom, and her mom to be drawn outdoors with a reverence for the sun and the soil and the magic ability that nurturing the earth has to calm and sooth us, to take us to a sweet spot every May of hope and inspiration.  (Discover more at Amazon.com )

seeds in garden