Slowing Down to Smell the Roses
When I was 4, we lived in a small two-room ranch style house in central California that was shaded by fig trees. After my mom Margaret (who always went by Peggy) had a second child, my younger sister, we moved to a larger home in Fresno.
It was the biggest house I’d ever seen. It had two stories, a butler’s pantry and an elevator — but being circa 1930s needed a lot of work. I remember seeing my mother struggling to steam and scrape off green-striped wallpaper in the living and dining rooms so she could paint the walls beige, and pulling up linoleum to refinish the hardwood floors.
My parents raised four children in that house. Sometimes we shared rooms, sometimes we had our own. Mom did most of the decorating, favoring period antiques and Oriental rugs, but let us pick colors for our own rooms and paint our furniture.
Having grown up on a farm in nearby Easton, she also knew how to plant and cultivate a wonderful garden.
When we were small children, we’d harvest our lemons, limes, oranges, pomegranates, and tomatoes. Mom would have us take bags of home-grown produce to the neighbors, and we’d return with pecans and walnuts from their trees. Many nights were spent cracking walnuts for mom’s chocolate chip cookies and pecans for her pies.
Mother’s Day was celebrated with breakfast in bed, accompanied by fresh fruit and a few flowers from her garden.
Once we left for college and start families of our own, my mom had more time and she earned a Master Gardener degree from her alma mater Fresno State, where she’d once reigned as Campus Queen. Her flower beds became more exotic, extending into any open yard space and offering color throughout the year.
My favorite remains her yellow roses. When I was married on September 7, 1985, she made sure her yellow roses were in full bloom, and we had our wedding reception in her garden. In her guest room, there’s a photo of me in my wedding dress that afternoon in the garden; you can almost smell the flowers.
When my oldest child (their first grandchild, Elizabeth) was born, my parents added Queen Elizabeth roses out front and a built a walkway and arbor seating in back so their grandchildren could have a special spot for reading or just enjoying the day.
Now in their 80s, my parents’ health is failing. My father can’t walk up or down stairs. My mother suffers from Alzheimer’s but she still gardens in the cool early morning hours before the Fresno heat takes over.
On my last visit, I suggested to my parents that they move to a newer, one-story home. They refused. They love their house, and especially their garden. They want to stay.
So, as a family, we’ve had to compromise: My youngest sister will move her family in with my parents this summer. The house is plenty large, and between my sister, her husband, and their teenage son, they’ll get my parents to and from where they need to go, help with any emergencies, and do outdoor chores to keep the garden going.
We don’t know what the future holds, but for today this decision feels right.
This Mother’s Day, I’m grateful my parents can walk through their garden together, just a little longer.