Thursday, April 16, 2009

Mama's Zinnias

Spot of Gold...

I remember the year Mama planted Zinnias. I was ten.

I thought about it today when I “turned my garden over”. It’s a small plot, less than ten paces long. This year I decided to plant Zinnias in my little spot. Just Zinnias.

So today I dipped my shovel into the earth. I pushed on the end of it with my foot, lifting out as much dirt as I could hold on to. I raised each scoop high and then I let it go. The clod would fall from the shovel, crumbling as it hit the ground. Over and over I did this until all the dirt was overturned. I began raking, to smooth the little mounds. It seemed there was more earth within that little rectangle than when I started. Finally it was smoothed and then, with the hoe turned sideways, dragging it along, I made rows. On my knees, I carefully planted the seeds and smoothed the dirt over them by hand. I struggled to get up – my back was weary.

I remember Mama’s Zinnias. She raked the dirt a little bit and then scattered the seeds. They landed in just the right spot. The business of planting Zinnias seemed so effortless! I wish Mama had been on Earth with me today. Maybe she would have told me her secret as I pawed breathlessly at my little spot of dirt.

I remember Mama’s Zinnias. Oh the colors! Flower heads as big as our supper plates, it seemed. They danced in the wind but always stood still for butterflies. Oh the butterflies! They flew from no-telling-where to visit Mama’s flowers. Not since that summer have I witnessed such large and colorful insects. A stunning display of flowers and wings - for the inspection and delight of anyone who walked along our dirt driveway.

My job was to water Mama’s Zinnias - before they sprouted, after they sprouted and all the way through blooming. So that year, once a week, more when it was hot, I would drag the hose from behind the house and down the driveway, making a snake pattern in the dry silky dust. During watering, something magical happened to me. I was in charge! I could make it rain! With my thumb held just right on the end of the pipe, I could put on the most dazzling show. If the green wiggly hose was held just so in the sun and my thumb was in the perfect position, a rainbow would appear through the spray of water. Either a small shower or a mighty storm was at my command. And, oh, the rain-dancing I could do as I twirled the hose high above my head! After they bloomed, the flowers would seem to sway with me, bowing and begging for a drink.

Will my Zinnias be the same? Can I recapture that moment in time?

No. I cannot imagine that that joyful event - of running barefoot, back and forth on the dirt driveway when the Zinnias were in full bloom - could ever dare happen to me again on Earth. Moments like that must surely be part of the Glory of Heaven. A moment in time, forever gone, but lingering with me forever – a startling shock of color in my mind – an explosion of hues I had never seen before - a memory picture I will always carry with me. I don’t know why Mama chose to plant Zinnias only one year – maybe it was for me. Maybe, after all these years, as I struggle with sadness, suddenly alone and longing, on my knees in the dirt, she wants me to remember the gloriousness of that one summer and the things we take for granted that can never be duplicated or recaptured.

I hope my Zinnias make it. But I know that hoping they will be like Mama's is futile. It's the same as trying to recapture my very first taste of Coca Cola. Impossible, no matter how many swigs I take. I will not try to duplicate Mama's Zinnias or even hope for such a miracle. I will hope for butterflies to visit whatever pokes its head out of the ground and enjoy the memory of that Zinnia Summer.