She was born into a tiny farming community in middle Georgia to a wealthy family in 1896. Her father was killed when she was only 4 years old–the result of a single shot to the head as he lead the charge of his men in battle, somewhere in the middle of the Philippines, during the Spanish American War. His body returned home to Georgia, to lay in state at the state capital in Atlanta, as a decorated army Captain. It was a new century, 1900.
She grew up to be an attractive, petite, yet rather buxom woman, whose presence could command a room. A southern grand dame of a genteel time. She was the epitome of “a lady” who hopelessly tried to impart in, as well as on, me the same overtly feminine demeanor. I was enrolled in ballet by 4 and tap by 6. I could only wear dresses in her presence, along with those highly shinny, yet stiff and squeaky, black patent leather shoes. White socks with lace and little white gloves.
No matter how hard she tried, I always maintained that tomboy nature, hating ballet and loving football. I blame our differences of personality on my being adopted—no telling what genes I came prepackaged with, but it wasn’t that of a sweet little girl. I was rambunctious and headstrong– always dreading the yearly shopping trip she would take me on—only to while away the day, waiting for hours, while sales women doted on me, presenting this or that new little frilly dress in order for me to parade before my grandmother as she passed the final judgement….”it’s a keeper, or not”…….
It wasn’t until I was older and in college until I could fully appreciate my grandmother for what all she represented in my life and for what all she had done for me over the years. I was always a bit rough around the edges, but finally I had come to a place of appreciation— Nany was my biggest ally and friend.
After her death in 1986, 2 months following the premature death of my mother, her daughter-n-law, I was left to help my dad pick up the sad pieces of his and our life/ lives…first his wife and then his mother. That was a difficult time to be sure—I was just 26 years old.
When it came time to pack up Nany’s home, dividing all of her belongings between my dad and my uncle, only leading to further redistribution between all of the grandkids, some things were destined for the rubbish pile—namely all of her plants. Being one who wants to always have something tangible of those I love, I couldn’t let one large plant go. It was healthy and pretty, possessing large shinny dark green leaves. Was this when I fist really noticed plants?
I brought the plant home to grace my newly married life—it must have been my first houseplant—what did I know about plants??—not much that’s for sure!! At some point, that winter or the next, I inadvertently left the plant outside on the night of a hard freeze–obviously I had thought it a good idea to take it outside for a good watering…..like I said what did I know about houseplants…a winter watering outside was not wise.
Spying it sitting on the porch the following day, apparently not a fan of frost or freezing temperatures, I knew immediately I had killed it. My husband however, having a very soft spot in his heart for Nany, mainly because she had been his biggest advocate when he suddenly appeared in my life and equally as suddenly into the lives of my family (that’s all for another post—FYI don’t tell your parents you’re marrying someone they’ve never met and you’ve only dated for 3 months who is also 10 years older—not the best conversation……but there I go digressing again….), thought better of leaving the plant out in the cold.
My husband brought the now frozen plant inside. I cut off the dead leaves and left the pot in the basement, figuring I’d just throw the whole thing out once it warmed up outside. Yet to my astonishment, the now barren looking pot of dried soil was sprouting new leaves. Could it be??? Did the plant survive???
My husband loves telling anyone who will now listen as to how he saved Nany’s plant. The plant has lived with us since 1986. It has also only bloomed twice since I’ve had it. Yes, I am now much better with plants, as I finally have become much older and thankfully somewhat wiser….I do fertilize, I water, I re-pot, I tend to and dote on….and yet, oddly, this plant will only bloom once in a blue moon.
It bloomed shortly after my son was born—a couple of years following Nany’s death. I saw the blooming as her joy over her newest and youngest great grandchild —someone she would have loved as my son seems more akin to Nany more so than I ever did.
And now, this week, the plant is blooming again. This time there is no monumental occasion. It simply sits in its place of importance in my kitchen for all to see as they enter my home. It sits in a corner of dappled sunlight, happy and full of life—and now–full of its single stalk of blooms. Maybe I’ve done something good–maybe Nany is happy as to the woman I have finally become. Still loving football yet quite capable of being a genteel woman when I need be…
I know this is some sort of lilly but as to which specific species is beyond my soul. I thought I once knew what it was, but that was right after I “rescued” it, or rather, inherited it those 27 years ago. Yes you read correctly 27 years ago, crazy I know—the plant is anywhere from 30 to 40 years old—are they suppose to live that long? Seems awfully long to me as far as house plants are concerned…but nothing Nany ever did surprised me…….