Tuesday, December 20, 2016

My Mother's Garden

I said goodbye to my mother in August, when I visited her in Inverness, Florida, far from the house she loved in St. Augustine. My sister had moved mother to be closer to her, since mother's health was tumbling downhill quickly. First to a lovely old hotel that had been made into an assisted living home full of antiques and caring folks. That lasted for less than two weeks when mother was moved to the hospital and shortly thereafter to a rehab facility. I made it down the last week of August thanks to a friend who stopped everything and drove me the six hours. Recovering from hip replacement surgery I could not drive that distance by myself. The day after I arrived we moved mother to hospice. I spent the day with her, grateful that I'd made it in time and could talk to her, while she understood my words. My own health issues trumped hers this year and the visit I so wanted, where we could laugh and hug, did not happen. But the visit to remind her how much I loved her came in the nick of time. It was a turn around trip, and mother passed on quietly the day after I came back to Georgia. It was a blessing for her.

A month later, another friend drove me to St. Augustine, Florida, six hours down the other side of the state. It was a drive I knew by heart. Many years ago I purchased the small cottage in the downtown area for mother.  I had just sold my place in Atlanta to live with the man I would marry. Terrible with saving money, the house was a grand idea. An investment and a haven for my mother.  She loved that house dearly and had many wonderful years living in it. Mother got back to her roots as a writer in the upstairs porch, a tiny narrow area that held her computer and her imagination. She started writing again at eighty-four. I set up a blog for her and a web page that you can visit.  She wrote many romantic novellas and a memoir in the four years before she left us. All can be found on Amazon.

My sister and brother-in-law were already at the house when we arrived, cleaning out things that needed to go, to the trash, to one of us, to Goodwill. The house was to remain furnished since I needed to sell it and wanted it to show well. It needed work that was not in my budget. I could no longer keep up two house payments and without mother, I would not visit the city I loved so because of her. I shared the pictures below on my Facebook page and the fates were kind. A writer I knew showed interest and took a trip to see the house. He pulled in a friend of his who owned a construction company, and within a few weeks the house had sold. They are bringing the cottage back to how it would have been in the 1920's.

Saying goodbye to the house was hard, as if I was saying goodbye to mother yet again. She was the happiest I could remember there. We had many wonderful visits, when my husband was alive, and later just the two of us, wandering through the historic plaza, eating out, watching TV, me stretched out on the sofa, mother in her favorite wing chair.

The month the house sold was one full of worry.  Hurricane Matthew came straight to St. Augustine and hit it hard. The historic downtown flooded but was saved, as was my house, a block outside the historic boundaries. A neighbor told me water came up to the front step but not into the house. Houses on the beaches were not so lucky. My purchasers were in St. Simons, in harm's way, too.  We made it through the month and the house closed on October 31st. The remaining furniture was donated to a group helping people who had lost everything in the storm. I knew mother would want that.

I am on my own now. The first time I don't have anyone to worry about. It is a very strange feeling. At sixty-eight it is me and my five dogs. I think about the house in St. Augustine and all the joy it brought and the memories I will always have of mother smiling, greeting me with love and hugs when I walked in the front door. Just like I have so many memories in my house here, memories of my husband, and of the life I've created since he left over eight years ago.

Friends asked if I might move there. The house in St. Augustine was too tiny, with its postage size yard, for a widow with a pack of hounds to inhabit, although I toyed with hauling us down there and selling this place. I knew it would never work. It was time to let it go. Time to figure out what would be next for me. Without mother's nightly chats on the phone there is a huge void, a change that leaves life too quiet once again.

Rummaging through Goodwill I found a little stone trivet with a quote that spoke to me. It now sits on a shelf in my kitchen.

       "In search of my mother's garden I found my own."  Alice Walker

Mother's memory will be the brightest flower in my heart as I move forward tending to my own garden, finding a new path for my life. There may just be a cozy cottage in the coming year, a new home for me and the pups. A dream my mother would want me to follow. One she knew stayed in my thoughts and encouraged me to pursue. When I started this blog about the cottage in my mind, she loved to read my stories and understood my restlessness to move from the house I shared with my husband, to something that was mine alone. A house lover my entire life it came as no surprise I wanted something different to play with, too. That combination kept me on Zillow looking at property for hours some nights.  The when and where larger than life questions for me.  My rambling ranch is lovely, but it is a ranch, I wanted older. Now I am older, too. With two hip replacement surgeries behind me. I am more limber some days, others not so much. My latest question is can I physically do it now?

Nothing held my mother back as she entered her eighties. She was my inspiration that you could do anything at any age. I will figure it out and write about it here. If I listen closely to the universe perhaps I will hear my mother cheer me on,

                                           My Mother's Charming House

Sharing photos of the house in St. Augustine, for you to see, and for me to have to hold close and remember all the joy we had there.

Mother sitting on the back porch a year or so ago. She grew the plant from an avocado seed and was always amazed it thrived. The women in our family are not known for our green thumbs.