Long ago, while she was still living with us, my mother planted a water-lily begonia and gave it to me. It was a pretty plant with its oversized begonia leaves and tiny white flowers on long, slender stalks, and under my mother’s care it grew and flourished.
When she was no longer here to care for it, it put out new leaves until this winter when it started to decline. I changed containers, moved it to various parts of the house, faithfully watered, but it continued to wither until I finally had to concede that it was a hopeless case.
Grieving for a plant may seem foolish, but I was heartsore. This was my mother’s gift to me. She had planted it with her own hands. I remembered her smiling as she put it on the table by the window. Now, I had lost it.
I am not the only one to have such feelings. “I wish I had brought with me a cutting of the roses my father planted near our house up north,” a friend said to me the other day. “I have roses here, but they’re not the same.” No, for the beloved rose held memories that could never be replaced.
Together we picked
Roses with such sweet fragrance
They gladdened the heart.
I know that my mother pined for her own garden and all the growing things she cared for with such devotion. When the Kansai earthquake tore down her home and forced her to leave Japan and all she had, her garden was her greatest loss. “I will never see the sweet peas this year,” she said to me. “I know they will be coming up out of their winter sleep around now. Who will take care of them now? Poor fellows.”
Much as I would have liked to, we couldn’t bring her plants across the ocean to the United States, so my mother had nothing left from her garden. Gamely, she tried to grow a few things here in North Carolina, and I remember one early spring evening when she defied impending frost by covering the budding anemones with sheets and towels. “Frost?” I could hear her muttering as she worked. “Nothing doing!” Next morning, she stripped off the sheets and contemplated the sturdy plants with great satisfaction. “You see?” she told me triumphantly. “You have to have hope!”
Under her hand my house plants… including the water-lily begonia… flourished. So one gray winter morning when I looked at the miserable specimen before me, I felt that I had failed her in some way. Well, it was time to throw the poor thing out. I picked up the pot, but then…
There always seems to be an ‘but then,’ but it often takes a jolt, a jarring, a disruption, to make us aware of them. But then the pot slipped from my hands and crashed onto the floor spewing dead plant and earth to the four corners of the room. Muttering unprintable words under my breath, I was about to get the vacuum cleaner when I saw the small green leaf.
Green! No way… but really, a small section of the root was trying to grow. Incredulous and excited, I found a new pot, filled it with new earth, carefully cut out the little living section, planted it, watered, and hoped. And slowly the plant began to regenerate. First a leaf, then two…
Each leaf unfurling
Brings with it unlooked for gifts…
On Mother’s Day this year the water-lily begonia looked healthy and quite proud of its stalk of white flowers. “There, you see?” I could almost hear my mother exclaim, and of course she is right. Nothing is ever beyond hope… or the heart.