Day 19 SLOLC: Irises, Braids, and “Buckle Up or No Go”

I don’t remember much from when I was little and I have zero memories from high school. When we think about our own stories, our own pasts, what is worth remembering and what gets left behind? I remember the flowers outside of my bedroom window. They grew tall, were fragrant, and a dusty purple in color. I remember my mother would grow them just for me. She would weave them into my long braids every day. I remember the day in third grade when I cut off my long hair after my mother grew impatient with helping me brush it out daily.

I remember the irises that grew on “that side of the house.” I didn’t like to go over there because the sun hit the house in a way that was blinding to me and far too hot for my PNW blood. I would cut irises in early morning when the dew was still fully formed on the petals. A bit of foil around the stem and off to school I would head. Irises don’t last long but they are sure pretty that first day of cutting. We didn’t have much growing up, but those irises were something special to me.

I remember the daffodils that popped up when the ground was still saturated and my black gum boots were my constant companion. I didn’t like to pick the daffies, but I loved to look at that. There was something so defiant about the way they stood so proud as if they were standing guard against the long window and ushering in spring. Friends would talk about visiting the fields upon fields of daffies 30 minutes south in the valley. There was something I never quite liked about my favorite flower lined up in perfect row upon row. I liked guessing where my flowers would pop up next, scattered throughout the front yard.

I remember my first garden. It was under the big fir tree in the front yard. We would park our VW ragtop bug under it. The car was powder blue and had a sticker on the glove box that said, “buckle up or no go”. My brother and I spent many a car rides in the back seat with our hands on our heads after my mother caught us hitting each other. It’s strange now to think that I always sat on the left side in the back. My nasturtium garden was on the right side and so I only saw it as we were pulling up to the house or when my mother was working late (which happened often) and the parking spot was empty.

I remember the corn, the scarlet runner beans, the carrots and the hours and hours we spent, backs bent, weeding the garden that would keep us fed throughout the year. I remember pitting cherries, husking corn, and snapping beans prior to canning. I remember my grandmother’s berry pies and my mom’s fresh baked bread. I don’t remember school or specific stories from that time. We were a family raised by a single mother who worked so hard to provide us with the best she could. As a family of three, we tended the garden that would feed us because if we didn’t, who knows what we do come winter? My memories are not sad, but they are ones of survival and one of finding beauty in the simple things like nasturtiums, daffodils, irises, and tiny purple flowers that make me think of a time when it was just the three of us. These times were simple and not always easy, but they are ones I hold dear.

8 Comments

  1. Clare J Landrigan

    A beautiful structure to carry your memories. I feels like a poem to me. This line feels like it is begging to be a poem: My memories are not sad, but they are ones of survival and one of finding beauty in the simple things like nasturtiums, daffodils, irises, and tiny purple flowers that make me think of a time when it was just the three of us. Thank you for sharing and filling my morning with lovely images.

  2. nancyrsantucci

    You truly had a relationship with flowers. Thank you for the journey. I met your family and your friends. I enjoyed reading this personification of the daffodils: “There was something so defiant about the way they stood so proud as if they were standing guard against the long window and ushering in spring.” By the way, what does PNW stand for?

    • Krista McGowan

      Thank you! PNW stands for Pacific Northwest. 🙂

  3. Suzanne

    Your post alludes to such an interesting life. I love how you acknowledge the fact that it was your life, not sad but not always easy either. The treasure here is that it is your story. And your story, for now, ends here in this moment. It meandered and may sound very different from others’ stories, maybe easier, maybe harder, but still, it landed you here. We are so many stories, aren’t we?

    • Krista McGowan

      That we are…

  4. Kristi Lonheim

    There were no flowers in my childhood, except the dandelions my grandmother paid me a penny a piece to pick from her yard; hands chartreuse and sticky as I finished. I hadn’t thought about the lack of flowers until reading about your irises. And your sense of beauty, “There was something I never quite liked about my favorite flower lined up in perfect row upon row. I liked guessing where my flowers would pop up next, scattered throughout the front yard.”

    • Krista McGowan

      awww…dandelions. You also have me remembering more. Thank you.

  5. Natasha

    I love this question from the beginning: “When we think about our own stories, our own pasts, what is worth remembering and what gets left behind?” Your memories of the flowers and plants growing are so beautifully described. I love how that ending–of your memories being “ones of survival and one of finding beauty”–fit so well with the rest of the piece.

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