My Memory Garden

Do you have a lot of photo albums? I do. In fact, I have 37. Wanting to downsize, I’m going through them and transferring the best photos into a compact, plastic case. The others (forgotten landscapes or duplicates or blurry images) go into one of three piles. 1. See if someone else wants these. 2. Use these for future personalized birthday cards. 3. Throw out. This chore, especially throwing photos away such as weddings or fantastic trips, is emotionally draining and, after an hour, I give myself a break.

I decide to water my flower garden. I begin with the Blue Bells and Jacob’s Ladder that my elder daughter gave me for Mother’s Day many years ago. They have flourished and I feel the tension of the last hour ease as I gaze at the color of the blossoms, the same shade of blue as my daughter’s eyes. As the plants soak up the water, I think of her and the special time we spent that Mother’s Day. It isn’t necessary, I realize, to look at pictures to bring back memories. My garden is full of them.

While the hose refills my watering can, I toss pellets to the goldfish in the water garden and recall carefree childhood days living with my siblings and parents. My siblings and I caught goldfish and sold them for $.50 at Racine’s Seven-Mile Fair. The memory is as clear as yesterday. I just tossed some blurry family pictures in the “discard” file, but that doesn’t mean I’ll forget those special times. Photo albums hold a snapshot moment. Memories are entire videos.

Next, I water the plant my son- and daughter-in-law gave me. They picked it out because of its name—sunset. We’ve shared many sunsets at our cabin where the oranges and reds reflected off the northern Wisconsin lake and at Gulf Shores, Alabama, where the sunsets have transformed the white beach into a glowing coral color. I’ll keep some of those photos, but I don’t need them all.

I continue on to water the hollyhocks. I have very few photos of my gentle and kind stepfather, but I have these hollyhocks. He carefully placed seeds from the ones he raised into a plastic bag and labeled it with his perfect handwriting. I remember the day he gave them to me. I tilt my head in reflection. People don’t need photo albums to remember the precious people in their lives.

I move on to the patch of feverfew plants that have been coming up for twenty years, ever since my mother gave them to me. Her “always eager to impart knowledge” personality is a “motherly” reminder each time I admire the patch of feverfew. Mom told me the history of the plant. It has been used for centuries to treat conditions like arthritis and headaches. I don’t use it for medicinal purposes, but appreciate its white flowers with yellow centers and remember how Mom loved daisies.

I refill the water can and pause at the huge, 30-foot-tall tree in our front yard. Over 40 years ago, my father gave my husband and me the maple when it was a sapling. I think back to his slim build, arched eyebrows, and quiet ways. My husband and I brought the tree back in a 5-gallon pail, planted it without fuss, and now it shades the front of our house. The tree is a reminder of my father, who was a practical, no fuss kind of guy. Even though the tree’s hardy enough not to need my watering, I give it some anyway, along with a pat on its trunk.

My last stop is at the retaining wall. This month my younger daughter joined me at the greenhouse to pick out perennials that would add color and interest to the wall. We chose a few and then, when we were planting them, she surprised me by tucking cuttings into the wall. In turn, I surprised her by using an old pair of her boots as a planter. Like paging through an album, seeing the surprises makes me think of her and smile.

I return to my downsizing chore. Once it’s completed, I won’t have as many photos to look through, but I won’t feel sad. Memories are as near as a walk in my garden.

6 Replies to “My Memory Garden”

Maybe you should take photos of your garden, Amy! ha! Kidding aside, thanks for sharing your memory garden with us.

Ha! Too clever, Sue. And too true. I do take photos of my gardens. 🙂
Thanks for reading,

I LOVE this column, Amy! It is so beautiful, both in sentiments shared and in its lovely writing. Wonderful job, my friend. Wonderful.

Thank you, Gayle. I’m glad my writing touched you and I appreciate your taking the time to let me know.

Debbie Gille

Beautifully written Amy. I too am planting flowers, trees and shrubs, at our new home in Tennessee. All things that remind me of my Mom and my childhood. Now….my photo albums, definitely needs some purging. But i really like your idea of saving the ones that speak to you in a special way. Happy watering!!

Thanks for your comment, Deb, and I’m glad that you’re enjoying planting and gardening season, too. It is more fun than purging photo albums. 🙂

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