My Mother’s Peonies

In my mind’s eye, I see a cobalt blue glass vase holding three white peonies. It sits on a white linen runner that contrasts with the dark wood of an old mahogany table. The heavy scent of peonies fills the small dining room that is illuminated by a south-facing picture window. A few black ants crawl in and out of the many-layered petals, though we tried to shake them off outside.

Mom’s simple bouquet’s were perfect.  Whether peonies, or other flowers, she fashioned a simple, understated arrangement of whatever bloomed in our back yard. I wish that I had photos of them, but only the memories remain — and they are mine alone. Mom does not remember much of the past because she has dementia. So, I tell her about the white peony bushes that grew at just the right height for me to breathe in their heavy perfume and stroke their silky petals. I speak of warm afternoons when I was very young and how we lingered in our garden to watch bees in the flowering almond, and looked to see if new seedlings had popped through the soil. I speak of the giant basswood tree that shaded the back yard and scented the evening air. Most importantly, I tell Mom how much I loved being with her in the garden.

This week, the first peony opened in my own back yard — white blooms first, then royal red and finally pink. I still touch their soft petals and smell their perfume. I remember with joy the days when I taught my own young son about nature, and I think of Mom with gratitude for all that she has given to me.

12 thoughts on “My Mother’s Peonies

  1. Beautiful memories, Beth. I remember both mother and my Grandma Hassett had peonies, I remember going out to the yard and cutting the gigantic blooms and then putting them on sheets of newspaper, (as instructed by my Grandma) to get rid of the ants. Then the house would fill with that beautiful scent.We have discovered 2 peony plants in our new home; I now have a bouquet of white and red beautiful, fragrant peonies too!

  2. As I sit in my own garden reading this post surrounded by flowers and birds, I think about how many gifts our Moms gave us, not least of which is the love of nature and gardens. The smell of a lilac or a peony can instantly transport us to a wonderful, precious memory and remind us that the lessons our Moms teach us stay with us and bring joy for a lifetime.

    • Hi Janet, what a lovely thought of you reading in your garden surrounded by nature! I agree — so often I see, smell or hear something in nature that triggers a beautiful image or experience that goes back to Mom. Thank you!

  3. Such descriptive and heartfelt writing…loved it. Reminded me of my own mom who also had a green thumb. She managed to grow stunning roses in our northern Minnesota yard, and as a child I went off to each summer birthday party bearing a present adorned with a lovely rose.

    • Hi Jan, what a special,lovely way to decorate a gift! Your mom must have been very special to do that, and to be able to grow roses in northern Minnesota!

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