My dad planted Rose’o’Sharon bushes all over The Compound. I’ve even found three purple ones just barely down the bank of the ravine. Rose’o’Sharons are not everybody’s idea of a good landscape bush. They drop those big juicy blossoms on the ground and make a mess. I didn’t enjoy them, either, until we moved here On the Ravine.
Dad brought sprouts with him from the farm, and with no particular plan in mind, tucked one here, one there, one everywhere. The one that made me fall in love with Althea, another name for Rose’o’Sharon is a soft, bridal pink that now stands as a ten-foot tree in the vegetable garden.
In The Study, Dad’s old digs in the ground level of the apartment now overhauled to suit me, a white Rose’o’Sharon fills the window with greenery and the occasional blossom with a deep red center sporting a white stem laden with pollen. Last year, I cut the bush down to the bottom of the window so I could look out on the shady private space on the side of the building. I planned for a future birdhouse, a couple of feeders, and plantings of native wildflowers.
The sweet little plant almost got a haircut again a few weeks ago (it had grown back the foot I lopped off last year), but my attention was drawn elsewhere, and Althea was left to try to catch up to the purple one and another white flanking it on either side.
For two weeks now, I’ve arrived at The Study by 6:30 A.M. I spend the first few minutes just sitting, letting thoughts wander through my mind and breathing with lazy rhythm while I gaze out the window. For the past three days, a hummingbird collecting from every blossom catches my eye. He only leaves the view momentarily to check the pollen supply on the larger bushes beside the window. When I settle in to the day’s work, he stays with me and the Rose’o’Sharon. I look up from time to time. I see him sipping and buzzing around when I leave The Study at about 9:00 each morning to attend to Mom’s morning activities.
It is a rainy afternoon today, I am writing this at almost 4:00 P.M., and here he is again! He provides a sense of calm for a while–again, even a sort of renewal, and then reminds me that it’s time to cook dinner. I say, “I’ll see you tomorrow morning,” turn off the monitor, and start toward the lift to the apartment.
He hovers to chatter at me before he darts away toward another feast.
I think he said, “None for me tonight, thank you. I’ve been eating all day!”
I was so scared when I saw the robin eggs at eye level in a leatherleaf mahonia bush in the front landscaping. Could they possibly last long enough to hatch given snakes just out for a stroll in the warming weather? Would the nest blow out of the bush in a strong spring wind? Maybe the eggs would hatch but the naked babies never survive a neighborhood cat’s attack.
Last year there were eggs, but there were no baby robins. We thought perhaps the mama abandoned the nest when she realized her home was too close to the ground and humans would walk by at least a few times a week.
But this year, there they were just a few days later, wet feathers with oversized cloudy eyes, and mouths gaping for a feeding when I sneaked a peek. Mama threw a fit every time I passed by. Papa sat in a tall crape myrtle and issued warnings.
Just a few days later, there was a nest full of cautious little fledglings, and Mama still told the whole neighborhood when I got close. Two days ago, I checked in and if I’ve ever seen a fuller house outside of a poker game, this one was it. When I looked at them, they just hunkered down and hugged each other. Mama hollered at me from the weeping cherry nearby.
I knew it was time, and sure enough, on Saturday before Mother’s Day, they were all gone. I wondered if all of them learned to fly before something caught them on the ground. I worried that a hawk sat steely-eyed in one of the ravine’s tall trees to only swoop down on a targeted flight.
Mama robins don’t do much caretaking once the babies take off. Unlike their human counterpartresses, they go back to what they were doing before, which I imagine is looking for worms and soaring high, or wafting through the neighborhood to a crape myrtle branch to sing for us. Their next job will be another brood this year. No wonder they don’t mind if their babies never return.
I remember when both my sons left home at the same time. The empty-nest syndrome washed over me like a waterfall. When our children start to fly, human mamas may be proud to see them achieving adulthood but some of us shed a few tears, or maybe more, in their all too silent absence.
We know our babies will return, some to stay for another while, some for just a visit. Some will bring their babies to visit.
My mother and I celebrated our Mother’s Day one day early. The children, grandchildren, and great-granchildren came to visit, cards and presents in hand. My brother Denny sent a generous gift card. There were flowers all over the place, Jeni’s blueberry-lemon ice cream, and a big bunch of laughing. We hugged over and over. My seventeen-year-old grandson cuddled me on the couch and later I got a photo of him sitting on his dad’s lap. The littles whooped and played with the oldest grandson leading the hooroar.
Mom asked me what we would have for Mother’s Day Sunday dinner. I said, “Pork roast. I’ve got to cook the rest of the pork shoulder I used for the chilaquiles.”
“What goes with it?” she asked.
I answered, “Oh, I guess I’ll cook some sweet potatoes and make some coleslaw.”
“My favorites,” Mom said.
“Yes, I knew that.”
“What am I having for dessert?” she asked.
“Oh, wow!” Mom was thrilled over the menu.
See, if all works right, human kids come back over and over again, and at some point, when the human kids are all grown up, they take care of their parents. How they care for mother and father is not nearly as important as that they care.
We make choices for Mom these days. She’s extremely willing and favorable, especially to the idea that we let her choose whenever possible. Unlike the little robins, humans can go home again. Unlike the possibilities for Mama Robin, Our Mama’s been with her children for eleven years now.
We all say a Happy Mother’s Day to Mom, Ethel, Mama Blair, Grandma, GrandmaMA!
A PRAYER ON MOTHER’S DAY, 1999
Father, we praise you on this special observance of Mother’s Day. We thank you for showing us your creative, nurturing, loving side, all those things that we naturally associate with motherhood. We are reminded that while you do seem to bless our mothers abundantly with those special gifts, you offer those same gifts to all, as we learn to live by your example.
We give you thanks for our mothers and we know that the unconditional love they give us could only come from you. We ask your special watch over those soon to become mothers and we beg your healing and comfort for those who struggle to conceive. We beg you to bring a child to their home. We ask your wisdom and reconciliation for those who find themselves with child and aren’t truly ready to be mothers. In your wisdom, bring them to a true soul-blessing through whatever path you design. We thank you for stand-in mothers, the ones who are just like mothers to us. We pray your wisdom for mothers in difficult situations, and for those who care for mothers, we claim your guidance and blessing. Wrap your consolation around those who have lost their mothers, whether through death or separation.
Lord, in your Mercy…..Hear our prayer.
We continue to pray for an end to violent situations in our world and for the people and community of Columbine. We feel a seed of healing that has already begun and we are so thankful for your comforting power. Help us to aid the healing and give us the wisdom to work toward peace and safety everywhere.
Lord, in your Mercy…..Hear our prayer.
Lord, bless our efforts to bring peace to Kosovo. When we are headed in the wrong direction, turn us around to the right path. Bless all those who continue to work with the refugees and bring comfort and healing to the displaced people who are being moved to new, strange homes. Help them to hear your tender voice promising, “I will never leave you as orphans” and use us as instruments of your peace and mercy.
Lord, in your Mercy…..Hear our prayer.
We give you thanks for the gift of your Comforter. Make His presence known this day to the sick, the troubled, and the grieving. We especially remember those on our prayer list…..
And we now pray silently for others who are on our hearts and in our minds….
Lord, in Your Mercy…..Hear our prayer.
Into your hands, our Father, we commit all for whom we pray, trusting in your mercy through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
We’re having a snow day. Except that we’re really having an ice day. And THAT is the problem with snow in Tennessee. Southern clouds try to conjure up snow and take their work just a little too far. The result hangs in sharp points from rocks, rooftops, and shrubbery. It pulls tree limbs and power lines to the ground. Schools, churches, and flights get cancelled. There are people without heat, or stranded, or hungry–Our heat could go out any time. I know I’m not supposed to enjoy this.
It’s ice out there, not snow, and it’s about two inches thick. I was glad I thought to fill the bird feeders. One little chickadee sang his thanks this morning, perched on the ledge of the big picture window behind the couch in the den. He didn’t fly away when I turned my head to look at him. The cardinals are having a rip-roaring soiree. They love a party in the cold. They take turns at three feeders with the chickadees, woodpeckers, finches, and wrens. It’s no surprise to see the other birds, but yesterday afternoon a bluebird crossed the back yard. Our neighbor, Don, keeps several houses for the cheery little Eastern bluebirds.
“Look, look! One of Don’s bluebirds….” I was driving, just pulling the van into the garage, with Dave riding shotgun.
“Could be one of our bluebirds,” Dave said. “I saw bluebirds in that second house between those trees we planted on the edge of the ravine.”
“Really? We have bluebirds? In that little house that Dad built?”
I couldn’t keep my eyes off the back yard action today but I managed to cook the mid-day meal. Most of the time, lunch is our largest meal of the day. Today I made chicken adobo. I learned this dish in seventh grade when my friend, Dorothy Valenzuela, came to the house and cooked for us.
I bought a chicken, just like she told me to do, and she arrived that evening with rice, soy sauce, garlic, and onions. “You have oil?” she asked. “How about vinegar?”
“What kind of vinegar?” I asked.
“The kind you cook with,” she answered.
I handed her some apple cider vinegar.
When the rice adobo was done, so was the adobo . She announced that she was leaving the soy sauce for us.
“You’re going home?” Dad asked. “Aren’t you going to stay and eat dinner with us?”
Dorothy giggled. “No, no, I can’t stay tonight. See you later.”
At the door, she said, “You have to teach me potato salad.” Later, she told me the reason she left was that she didn’t want to be eating if we didn’t like her adobo.
Mom and Dad and I talked about Dorothy at lunch while we did away with the chicken, rice, fried apples, and broccoli-fixed-two-ways. Dad gets his cooked to mush in cheese sauce; I roast it crisp-tender for the rest of us. Dad declared the meal to be the “best meal you’ve cooked in a long time, Sis. I’ve made a pig of myself.”
“I thought you liked all my cooking,” I said.
“I do. I just think this one was extra-special,” he answered.
Mom got in the game. “I’ll just say that chicken was out of this world.”
After lunch, Dave made a trip to the veterinary specialists’ office. No one is supposed to be driving today, but we realized Friday night that Murphy would run out of prednisone on Tuesday. We stopped in at the office Saturday morning and the receptionist said it would be better to just wait and call in on Monday. Huh. See how that went down?
Dave is an excellent driver in snow and on ice, a skill he picked up in his home state of Montana, but I was relieved when he got home. “You didn’t crash and burn!” I said.
“No, but it’s a wonder,” he said. “And it took me five runs to get out of our south side driveway.”
I didn’t see a bluebird today, nor the doves. They must be bedded down in some warmer place, but there were two or three robins pecking at the ground under the curly willow. I wondered if they were digging out frozen worms.
I received a text from a young man who’s done landscaping and handyman jobs for us. “Ms. Revell, do you all have kerosene or a generator? Do you need me to bring you something? I will. Whatever you need.”
I responded. “I think we’re good. Thanks for thinking of us.”
“If you need your drives and walks cleared and salted, just let me know, Ms. Revell.”
And that’s probably the best thing about snow and ice in Tennessee, at least here in Nashville.