Money was scarce as hens’ teeth in 1955, but Mother’s Day was coming up and I wanted to give Mama a special gift. As I was 8 and had no way of going to a store by myself, but did not want to buy something off rolling store. In fact, at that time in my life, I had never been inside a real store other than the jukejoint at the end of our road. I had one whole dollar to spend, and I wanted the most for it.
A fellow student’s mother worked in a department store downtown. I discussed my situation with him, and he agreed to take my money and have his mother select a pretty lace handkerchief for me. The next morning, Craig Boyd brought a white paper bag with the gift inside. His mother had chosen the pretty handkerchief and gift-wrapped it in white tissue with a delicate, pink bow on it.
I’ll never know why I had chosen a dainty, white lace handkerchief for a farm lady. Maybe it was because it was something that did not represent work or was nothing needed. Even today, I have several of these small handkerchiefs, but always use one of my husband’s big ones.
I had the wrapped gift taken care of, but I still needed something more. Flowers were what I needed. There were none in our yard, as it had to be kept clean and swept often with the gall berry brush broom. Daddy already had plowed the blue tops that covered the fields.
Looking for ripe dewberries while walking near the freshly plowed cornfield, I spotted the answer. There in the briars next to the fence were clumps of dark-green stems dotted with bright purple buds about to open. The stems were about 18 inches tall, and the buds covered about 10 inches. A few dime-sized flowers already had opened. There would be enough for a lovely bouquet if they would bloom by Mother’s Day. Each evening, I went across the field to check on them. Yes, by Sunday they would be in full bloom.
Early on Mother’s Day, I hurried across the dew-covered grass to the flowers. Carefully, I picked the stems without bruising the flowers and hurried home. I hid them behind me until I got to the bedroom.
I went to the kitchen, and mama was cooking. The Jim Dandy grits were hopping in the cast-iron pot. Smoked ham was frying on the iron spider. She already had two hoecakes browned in the iron skillets. I watched as she broke a dozen eggs I had gathered the evening before. After the ham was cooked, she poured the eggs into the pan to scramble. She paid no attention as I slipped to the old wooden cabinet and selected a fine crystal vase — actually, it was a Peter Pan Peanut Butter jar — to put the bouquet in. I went out to the water shelf and primed the hand pump, filled the vase and hurried to the bedroom.
One by one, I placed each blooming stem into the water until I had a gorgeous bright-purple arrangement. Now I would have to wait until she left the kitchen so I could secret them onto her plate. I went back to the kitchen and offered to set the table while she went to check on my 2-year-old sister Helen. When I had finished setting the table with 10 mismatched plates, I placed the gift and bouquet beside her plate. I could hardly wait to see the excitement on her face. She may have faked her joy, but I do know she kept the lace handkerchief for many years and may still have it. The flowers faded away, but the memory of them lingered.
My mama is still living and doing fairly well to be more than 92. Mama, if you are lucky, I may go in the weeds and briars to pick enough spring larkspurs for a bouquet just as I surprised you with 57 years ago!
Happy Mother’s Day to all mothers.