Aunt Mary’s Garden

Tomorrow is Mothers Day. I did not have a good relationship with my mother. I was going to write about that but decided to write about the woman who was my more my real mother.
The summer I turned seven, we moved from Hoboken to North Arlington. It was quite a big deal for us, moving from the city to the “country”. Well at least it seemed like the country to us. My mother and her family grew up in a cold-water flat with a hall bathroom shared with the neighbors. It wasn’t till all the siblings went to work that they graduated to a seven room apartment with their own private bathroom complete with tub. All I knew was apartment life. I can remember driving out to western New Jersey to visit my Great Aunt Viola and passing dairy farms. I thought the cows were wild animals. So when my Mother and Uncle bought a two-family house in the suburbs it seemed like country living to us. Even though the only thing that separated us from the neighbor’s house was a driveway, and there was only a small front lawn and the grass yard in the back was smaller still, wedged between the back of the house and the garage wall, it still seemed like a country estate.

I remember thinking how big it was, our new house. Now looking at it with adult eyes, I can see how small it really was. My Aunt Mary had the little bedroom in the back on the second floor. My Grandmother and my Aunt Rita shared the larger bedroom next to it. My Uncle Marty, who was a priest and only came home on his day off, had an even tinier room in the front next to the hall stairs. My parents and I lived on the first floor. I had the room directly below my Aunt Mary. At the time, I had never slept by myself. My Mother always had to lay down with me until I was fast asleep. And if I woke up in the night, I would call out and she would come back and lie down again. It was my Aunt Mary that convinced me that sleeping alone in my own room would be an adventure. She told me she would lower down notes on a string out side my window. We could share secrets that way. It worked too. I slept alone until my father died when I was nine and this time, my Mother asked me to sleep in her room. I stayed with her until I was twelve and wanted to assert my independence.

That first year we were there, it was September when we moved in. We only had a short period of time to enjoy our little patch of grass out back. I remember our first weekend, Aunt Mary took a kitchen chair downstairs and sat in the middle of that postage stamp of a yard and tried to get a tan. I can still see her in her plaid Bermuda shorts and sleeveless shirt, sitting in that straight-backed wooden chair, her head tilted back, holding a glass of iced tea in a frosty, aluminum glass. She made it look like she was at an exclusive spa instead of a jankity old backyard.

Because it was past much of the growing season that year, we didn’t know much of what would grow in that tiny backyard the next season. So it as a real surprise, when the next spring, Lily of th Valley popped-up alongside the house. My Aunt Mary was thrilled. Her birthday was in May and Lily of the Valley was her flower. Every week, she cut the blossoms and put them in vases for herself and my mother. I remember how strong the scent of the blossoms was. She was always trying to make life beautiful for everyone.

In the last years of her life, she neglected her Lillies. She didn’t cut the blossoms and the patch was overgrown and spindly. When my husband and I got the family home ready for sale this past fall, I had a tough time parting with so much in the home. He got tired of me saying, “I can’t get rid of this. Not now.” I know that so much of what we saved we will eventually get rid of, but I just wasn’t ready. So when I told him I wanted to dig up the Lily of the Vally in the back, his response was, “Are you serious? They porbably won’t survive.” But I couldn’t leave them. They were Aunt Mary’s flowers. We dug them up and carried they home in a bucket. We replanted them on the side of our barn. I put the statue of the Blessed Mother that my Aunt asked that I buy where I planted her flowers and I hoped. There was a 50-50 chance that they would survive.

So it was a very happy thing to see how well they took. And it looks like since we broke them up that they will flower better than ever. So when they bloom, I will cut them and bring them into the house and remember. Happy Mothers Day, Aunt Mary.

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