I am writing your birthday letter early this year. I have so much to tell you, and it can’t wait until June. The sad news is Dee had a stroke. I couldn’t talk her into taking better care of her health. She is improving every day. I know how fond you were of her—your first grandchild. I appreciate how much you helped me when she was born 73 years ago.
Now, the good news. Remember I told you I was writing a historical novel? It is finished and accepted by Rockinghorse Publishing, and printed! I bet you would love it. Do you think that is an odd name for a publishing company? I do, but it is easy to remember. Water Under the Bridge is a work of fiction, but a lot of it mirrors our life when we lived in Claypool, Arizona. I tell about the time we went to see the first aeroplane, and also the couple in the book had to convert the parlor into a small store because of the Great Depression. I also mention your voting dress and how it got its name.
I already told you how I was published in an anthology, Journeys to Mother Love. Well, it is selling well. One of the nine authors whose stories are in the book, Ardis Nelson, contacted me by email. She is also writing to her dead mother. It would be nice if you could find her in Heaven, don’t you think? Ardis and I are becoming friends. Ardis promised to pray for Dee and for my joints. Isn’t that sweet of her?
Oh, yes, Larry is getting married this month. They wanted me to fly out to Oregon for the wedding, but I’ve decided against it. The last time I tried to fly, Missouri had a snow storm and we were stuck in the airport for 12 hours. The first plane we boarded developed problems and we had to get off while they tried to repair the damage—with no luck. What an unpleasant experience.
You get a chance, beam down and we’ll attend Easter services together. That would be a blast. I’m going to the covered bridge again this year. Leave me a message, if you can—maybe plant a wildflower on the spot where you rested the day we went there with Lewis, or place a rabbit close by. But no copperheads, please.
My eyes hurt. I’ll close for now. I love you and will soon join you and all the others whom I miss. Tell Irene when you see her—tell her I’m coming. Soon!
My sweet mother has been gone from her home on earth for more than forty years, but I still think of her every spring about this time. For several reasons: first my birthday is towards the last of April and that day years ago Mother gave me life. Also, even though she already had four living children and couldn’t afford another, she gave me love and nurturing. And, of course, Mother’s Day is coming up soon.
But more importantly, I think of Mother because spring is the planting season. Mother taught me the love of gardening and how to plant each seed, each bulb and each small, rooted plant. She showed me the way to clip cuttings from geraniums and roses and other plants to start new growth, thereby having a cheap way to multiply beautiful flowers and shrubs.
I recall the first day in early spring when I drove the few blocks to Mother’s house and together we spent the morning browsing in a nearby nursery looking to buy tomato plants. Mother reminded me my birthday would be soon and said she wanted to buy me a gift of flowers that were already in bloom, that I could plant in the yard. A lovely present that lasted all summer! I chose red salvia and a blue flower (I don’t recall the name). Usually I planted seeds and had to wait for blooms. The luxury of immediately having plants in bud or full bloom thrilled me.
When Mother’s Day arrived I gathered a pretty bouquet and presented them to Mother. And so the ritual between us was started. I am happy to say it continued for many happy years. Mother lived to be almost ninety-three and continued to garden on a small scale until about two years before her death.
To this day I enjoy digging in the dirt. It is difficult for me to stoop, so I have purchased large pots I can use outdoors. When spring comes each year I rejoice in the new life of the birds and I never fail to think of my mother and the joy she brought into my life with the love of gardening. I only hope she can look down and share the happiness with me this year. I am passing on the love she taught me to my great-grandson, and I think that as long as the earth stands and plants grow, my mother will not be forgotten.
In a few days I’ll say again this year, “Happy Mother’s Day, Mother. I LOVE YOU!”
~ Verna Simms
Editor’s note: Verna, our great-grandma author/blogger, tells this sweet story about playing the game of “drop the handkerchief” as a child. Much later she learned the original meaning of the child’s game. Our relationships with our mothers are a little like that game: In later years we may look back on our childhood interactions with our mothers and realize that the daily give-and-take was really about love: dropping hints, picking up words and habits and challenges, running with longing and hope, and making memories that would last a lifetime.
When I was very young, family size was large, and houses were small. Children spent most of their days playing outdoors in the street or vacant lots. My favorite game was “Drop the Handkerchief.” As I recall, we formed a large circle, then the person who was “it” walked around the outside and dropped a square of white cloth to the ground behind whomever they chose. That individual would pick up the hanky and chase around, racing to see who could occupy the vacant spot. It was exciting and great fun!
The year a deep depression hit the entire country, we had few luxuries. Mother’s only hobby was collecting fancy handkerchiefs. She had a few from her youth–fancy white squares of delicate cloth with colored lace trim and embroidery in one corner. She kept these treasures in a drawer, neatly folded, with perfumed sachets. I recall her loaning one with delicate blue hand-crocheted trim in fine thread, for me to carry on my wedding day. Never, ever was one of these hankies used for a practical purpose.
One day, years later, I said, “Mom, why do you prize the collection of hankies so much? You never use them.”
“Well, not now, hon.” Her dreamy eyes seemed to travel back into the past. “When I was young, a girl needed these treasures so she could meet boys. When we left church or some other function, if we saw a boy we would like to know better, we would simply drop a hanky at his feet. The boy responded by picking it up and graciously returning it or putting it in his pocket and at a later date he would show up at your door and return the possession. We always had a porch swing a boy and a girl could use to have some privacy.”
“You think the game I played all those years ago came from that?” I asked.
“I think so!” she said.
I laughed. To think that all those happy hours when I chased a boy around in a circle I was really playing a “Game of Love” and didn’t know it.
~ Verna Hill Simms
Despite over eighty years difference in our ages, my great-grandson, Luke, and I have a surprising amount of common interests. We both have a passion for water—whether wading ankle deep in the shallow crystal-clear creeks flowing in Missouri—watching minnows, or splashing in the rivers and swimming pools.
We both enjoy making crude figures from colored play dough, playing pretend and hiding from imaginary foes. He squeals in delight as I press a button on one of his modern toys and jump when it gives forth talking or loud noises of some sort. I explain to him how my home works; and he is equally quick to tell me, when a particular toy doesn’t respond to my touch, that it needs batteries!
But most of all we love to talk!
One day as we were visiting, celebrating his 2 1/2 year birthday, we stopped to wash our hands together in the low sink in their guest bathroom. I soaped my hands and rubbed them together making a lather and then joined the two hands together and blew a bubble through the opening. “When I was a little girl I used to blow bubbles by cupping my hands like this,” I said.
Luke looked into my eyes and smiled, “When I was a little boy, I rubbed my hands together and made bubbles like this.” He blew into his cupped hands and a wee bubble appeared.
Yes, we enjoy each others’ company. As I returned his smile, I let my mind travel to the distant future and made a silent prayer in my heart that when he reaches the ripe old age of 83 he will remember me and share with his grandchildren about our fun days together and tell them, “When I was a little boy …”
~ Verna Hill Simms