A different sort of Mother’s Day

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Yup, that’s my Mom. (Hi, Mom!) Everybody say hello.

I realized this morning that so many people I know have never met my mom, since my parents and I haven’t lived near each other in almost 10 years. So, I thought I’d share a photo, one that probably captures the spot she’s in at this exact moment, doing the very same thing.

Mother’s Day has always been a very different sort of holiday for my parents and I. My parents bought a greenhouse and flower shop back when I was in junior high, and ever since then, Mother’s Day for us has been associated with insane numbers of flower arrangements (when everyone remembers at the last minute that they actually have a mother), not to mention the beginning of the spring rush for bedding plants in the greenhouse and more years than not, a flurry of corsages for Prom. It’s a weekend in which the focus is on survival more than celebration. By the time Sunday afternoon rolls around, my mom’s hands are basically destroyed from the water, cutting, wiring, wrapping, and general prowess involved in the creation of every possible arrangement of flowers you can imagine. Mother’s Day is particularly brutal because it is only the beginning of May, which means that the long hours in the greenhouse will stretch on for at least another month, with my parents working very long hours with no days off until sometime in June, depending of the ebb and flow of locals and their planting needs. Mother’s Day is basically the starter pistol going off, and my parents are running a marathon for the next several weeks.

My dad’s up by 4am watering, filling, and maintaining the greenhouse so that he can beat the heat of the sun and get the hoses put away before customers start wandering through around 8 or 8:30. He works all day, helping folks figure how much sun exposure they’ve got and narrowing down what plants will work for them, filling empty spots on the benches, planting orders for organizations, keeping the greenhouses cool enough and the plants wet and fed enough to survive the growing heat and humidity, and a million other things…and then he goes to work at his second job in the late afternoon/evening. Yes, you read that right — second job. My mom is doing all the same things, along with flower arrangements, dealing with online and phone orders, helping customers in the shop and making deliveries. As you can imagine from this far too brief description, it gets pretty damned tiring. Friends do come in and help on Mother’s Day now and again, making sure every customer is greeted and assisted though the greenhouses, helped with their selection of plants, and then that everything is carried to the car for them. Sometimes, if they’re lucky, a friend will offer to take care of deliveries for Mother’s Day weekend, meaning that my mom can concentrate on arranging flowers and need only map the deliveries and their route for that friend, instead of doing all of that and delivering them herself. But other than these few exceptions, it’s just the two of them, doing everything, every day.

To say that my parents are already beginning their annual rite of May zombification is probably a vast understatement. No one who hasn’t worked regularly in a greenhouse or flower shop during this time of year really gets it. Even some family members and friends who have helped in the past forget how crazy this time is, and can’t understand why my parents have to decline when invited to go out for Mother’s Day brunch or dinner with my aunts, uncles, cousins and grandmother. It’s not that such an outing doesn’t sound fabulous right about then, but instead that there is no one else to take care of the business, and that even after they close, they are simply too wiped out to move. They need to get to bed, so that they can start the whole process again early the next day. And why are they so dedicated to making the most of the spring season? Because by and large, the money made in the next few weeks will be what they have to live on for the rest of the year. Money made during the rest of the year is unpredictable at best. Owning a greenhouse is not a grand moneymaking venture for them, but simply a way of being in control of their own lives, helping others as they can, and hopefully making enough money to get by.

So, as I think of my mom today, of course I think of all the great things she’s done for me and taught me through the years. Would I always have my stereo cranked in the car and sing as loudly as possible, or love the way late summer tomatoes taste just off the vine, or have the tendency to rescue stray animals, or be ragingly, irreversibly liberal, or adore the Rat Pack, or be a voracious reader without my mom’s influence? Hell no! And I thank her for all of those things and more.

But more than anything on Mother’s Day, I think of my parents working so terribly hard that it scares me sometimes, and wish beyond anything that I could be there during these weeks to lighten the load. Mom and Dad both taught me the priceless necessity of working for whatever you want, even if the very thing you desire most is self-determination. Nothing’s easy about doing what you want to do; it takes perseverance, labor, the ability to survive hardship, ingenuity, stubbornness, patience, kindness and generosity. My parents are these traits personified during this spring season, on Mother’s Day weekend, and in life in general. I couldn’t be more proud, and hope that I’m doing an okay job following the same course out here in my own fashion.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom and Dad! You’ve just about made it through another one. Go in the house, put your feet up and have a Bloody Mary — just check the olives first, okay?

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