My Memaw (Grandma, for those of you who don’t know this Southern term of endearment) is 83 years young.
She has the energy of a toddler on a sugar rush, the humor of an unassuming comedian, and the heart of a true Southern lady.
For as long as I can remember, Memaw has worked in her flower garden. It’s not just a hobby, it’s her passion. Many days she is working in her yard before I even find the energy to get out of bed. She carefully plucks out weeds and dutifully waters her plants. I’ve seen her bring dead plants back to life. She is truly a miracle grower.
Each spring, her yard is transformed into the most beautiful flower garden with phlox, amaryllis, lupines, larkspurs, sunflowers and more. People will drive by her house and just stop to admire the vivid colors of the blossoms – a fact, which Memaw is well aware and humbly proud of.
Her sister is constantly telling her that she’s “too old” to be out in the yard, playing in dirt and doing back-breaking tasks.
But Memaw’s reply is always this – “I’m happiest when I am out working in the yard.”
Oh, I can only hope that I have that kind of stamina and passion tomorrow, let alone when I am 83.
On Monday, I was coming home from lunch at Two Gals Deli (don’t forget to check out that yummy place!) when I saw Memaw in her yard bagging up trash. I jumped out of my car and immediately scolded her for being outside in the hottest part of the day and for not calling me to help.
She shrugged her shoulders and said, “Now, Nina, my yard was just looking a mess. I had to do something about and I can most certainly do it on my own.” (Did I mention she was stubborn, too?)
So, Tuesday, I decided to offer my assistance in cleaning up Memaw’s “mess of a yard.” We hoed weeds, raked out the flower beds, disposed of trash. We stooped down, bent over and boy, did we sweat.
While working, though, I couldn’t help but watch Memaw.
To protect her skin from the sun, she was wearing long gray pants and a long sleeve white shirt embroidered with pastel flowers. Her bright red work gloves and her hot pink children’s snow boots that she found at Goodwill in North Carolina made the mismatch outfit seem complete.
She was quiet while she worked, only humming old gospel songs while mockingbirds seemed to join in the chorus.
She was methodical in using her hoe to dig up stubborn, unruly weeds. When she accidentally unearthed a tiny flower instead of a weed, she delicately held on to it, dug a new hole for it, placed it back in the ground, and pushed soil around its tender roots.
This is a sight that is familiar and connected to so many of my childhood memories.
But this time, she looked so much smaller than I remember, more fragile. Her balance was unsteady as she moved through flower beds and block dividers. Still, her innate nature to be a hard worker, kept her going.
She never took a break, never said it was too hot, never complained.
She just smiled and looked so happy.
To me, Memaw has always been the true definition of a strong, beautiful woman.
Never did she exhibit these characteristics more than when she was working in her yard, toiling in the rich, black muck.