Primroses, primroses, jump into the pot
We’ll take you with us to the new garden
Where we hope you will be happy
I’m borrowing from words I remember reading in My Childhood, by Maxim Gorky, when he hears his grandmother inviting the house demon, the goblin of the hearth, to jump into a shoe and go with them to the new house. Something like that happened with these flowers.
Before my husband died, when we were living in rural Wales, near Aberystwyth, we had a big blue pot into which the seeds of primroses had sown themselves. It was a wonder to us when they appeared one springtime. Since then I have come to wonder instead why the countryside is not covered in them, so happy are they to spread themselves about.
After my husband’s death at too young an age, my parents decided that they would plan ahead, and after much looking about, paid for a plot in a woodland burial ground with a distant view of the harbour. Mum was born in a house in a nearby village in a bedroom with much the same outlook across fields and marshland to the water.
My parents took us to the place on a grassy hillside with young trees planted, and small headstones lying flat. Mum pushed her rollator to the top of the rise and there was the view. ‘You see,’ said my mother, ‘you could come up here and have a picnic.’
Later, she showed us the list of flowers that could be planted on the grave: native species only. I promised her some primroses.
Four years later, I moved back home to Dorset and the big blue pot came with me. The mother plants soon multiplied and I began planting out primroses in the new garden. Mum and I talked about it more than once, that I would plant them for her too – one day.
In the new garden there were forget-me-nots in abundance. Mum said that she would like those too.
My husband had died of mesothelioma, that terrible cancer caused by breathing in or ingesting fibres of asbestos. For a donation to the charity, Mesothelioma UK, you can have badges to wear inscribed with the words ‘forget-mesothelioma-not. Mum wore such a badge on every coat and cardigan.
After she died, I potted up and planted out the first primroses and forget-me-nots and planted them on her grave. I am grateful that she went in peace and had lived to be 86 despite long-term struggles with her health.
But springtime brings a Mother’s Day without her. And the beauty of a blackthorn winter is sharp with memories of loss. My husband died in April, on Mum’s birthday. It links them forever, like the flowers, but it weighs me down. I feel a little lighter for having written this.
We go to the grassy hillside with my dad and tend the grave. The young trees are taller than last year. There is a picnic table on a patch of rough ground. One day we might sit there. I hear Mum telling me of the fields around the village where she grew up, then full of flowers in springtime.
The photographs are from my garden. I didn’t want to show a picture of the grave: but the flowers are there too as well as snowdrops and crocuses, and creeping thyme. The forget-me-nots have seeded everywhere, promising a covering of tiny blue stars. The primroses survived last summer’s drought and are thriving now. We snip the grass around them so they won’t be taken by the groundsman’s strimmer.
There is some comfort in a promise kept, in the return of the flowers and in knowing of the journey they have made.
Seasonal celebrations can be hard on those who cannot as readily join in: people without mothers, or those who’ve never had one or known such love. I’m lucky to have good memories. For those who have mothers and who feel that love, enjoy it! Enjoy it while you can, as we did.
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