When a person reaches their 50's a lot of water has flowed under the bridge of life. Who am I kidding.... for some of us that stream has been more like a tsunami. The cycle of birth, marrying, & burying has been experienced in all it's pain and all it's glory. As the older family members start to pass one at a time and the family ranks start to thin out it seems I am standing closer and closer to the head of the line. I really don't dwell on memories too much. I'm a "present in the moment" kind of a gal. There is one event that brings the memories flooding back to me. It's when my night blooming cereus blooms. It's a cutting from my grandmother's plant & I have been lugging it with me every where I have lived.
My grandmother on my mother's side was quite the renaissance woman. There was no area of life that she did not have some smattering of understanding. Before it was trendy to go green she recycled everything. All her kitchen scraps and garden clippings went to her compost pile. She had every copy of Prevention Magazine since it's inception and loved to doctor herself (& us) She fished, she sewed, crocheted, & tatted. She had been a Rosie the Riveter working in a manufacturing plant during the WWII. She had opinions about just about everything new that came down the pike. Upon hearing they were going to transplant a monkey heart into a human in a very early heart transplant experiment back in the 1960's my grandmother was not so much concerned about the heart. She was very concerned that the person would start "carrying on like a monkey". We just thought she was a little quirky & my family has a high quirky thresh hold.
|Easter 1954 (l-r) My mom, her father, & Othermama|
Her grandchildren called her "Othermama". Actually, everyone pretty much called her that. She was given the grandma moniker by my eldest cousin whose father was away in the Korean War back in the 1950's. Frank & his mom lived with my grandparents. When he would cry out from his crib for his mother - his mother would come a running. Frank would continue to cry and say "No No" and call out for the "other mother - I want the other mother" hence our Othermama was named.
Othermama was passionate about nature & the outdoors. She would take us through her yard and greenhouse and show us all the plants she was propagating or the herbs she was growing. She'd always make us chew some fresh parsley "cause it's good fer yer digestion". Othermama was known to make a little homemade blackberry wine to build up your blood too. She was from Tennessee and 1/2 Cherokee Indian so she knew things.
Othermama was also a florist. She loved orchids and other exotic plants from faraway places she would never travel too. The highlight of any summer night was when the night blooming cereus would open up in her neighborhood. Othermama never learned to drive so she walked everywhere in her then little town of Clearwater, Florida. She knew where every night blooming cereus was in that city. So walk we would.
|My Night Blooming Cereus is a cutting from my grandmother's original plant that she had back in the 1950's|
She would take us from street to street showing us each beautiful cereus as the day was dimming and the street lights would come on. Othermama would tell us how the stamens in the middle symbolized the star of Bethlehem and the stamen below it was the manger of the Baby Jesus. I can still hear her voice in the darkness as she lead us through the neighborhood holding hands and watching the wondrous display of night blooming white flowers.
|The bloom about 4pm. There were 4 ready to pop tonight with 3 stragglers.|
|The sun started to get low around 6pm|
|Well worth the wait - 9pm|
So tonight my cereus flowers are opening. My mother & I will be checking them every hour for their progress. At one point I know we will stop and talk about how much Othermama would have loved this. Her voice will float across our memories telling us to breath in that heavenly fragrance. I suspect Othermama still smells it too.