Monday, August 29, 2011

Grandma's Hollyhocks

West of a white bower, behind an aging picket fence, these proud plumes of color caught my eye. We were driving down a side street in historic St. George, just biding our time before dinner, when we passed this garden of hollyhocks. The most I've ever seen.

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We slowed to a stop and I snatched up the camera, climbed out of the car.

Trumpets of striated pink, red, and white were spinning wide, spreading their skirts out under the sun. The ground, and everything growing out of it, hummed with bees.

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Large bumblebees burrowed into every flower. I took picture after picture, then slid back into the passenger seat and sent my mother a text.

Just saw the most gorgeous garden of hollyhocks. They are in full bloom. And they remind me of you.

Hollyhocks will always remind me of my mother.

And hollyhocks will always remind my mother of her grandmother.

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This is how my mom remembers her Grandma Teresa - my Great-Grandma Manwaring. Don't her eyes look kind?

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All of Teresa's grandchildren have the warmest memories of her home. Hollyhocks grew tall along the banks of the irrigation ditch that ran next to the house. My mom recalls moving through the stalks as she and her brother waded into the ditch to catch skeeters on the water.

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When petals finally circled open, Grandma took my mother's hand and they surveyed the blossoms together - hunting for ones that would make the best dolls.

They would find a full blossom for the skirt, an unopened blossom for the hat (or hair). And two sprigs of other flora for arms.

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Last month, while my girls were playing in my mom's backyard, she took their hands and walked up to the hollyhocks. They chose blossoms, carried them gently to the kitchen table, and I watched cousins gather around my mom as she taught them the art of making hollyhock dolls.

I could only stay long enough to see the girls peel a few petals. The boys were ready for a nap. But I did take this picture of the finished doll Eliza brought home.

A few years ago my Mom found this book (unfortunately it is out of print) about a hollyhock doll named Miss Lilly. She reads it to my girls and the dolls come to life. Inside are instructions on how to make a doll, with an address to send away for your own seeds.

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Grandma Teresa was quite a woman. Right after she married, her husband Arthur, left on an LDS mission to England. This picture was taken while he was gone. It was labeled years ago, "Waiting for Husband."

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They had six children. Three girls and three boys. My Grandma, Lorraine, was the youngest. Arthur died when Lorraine was fourteen. A few years later, all three of Teresa's sons went into the military to serve in WWII. They had a dairy farm, which she continued to run - supplying milk, butter, and eggs to local grocers. But it wasn't enough. So Teresa became a seamstress for JC Penny so she could continue to provide for her family. It was no small thing when she saved enough to send my Grandmother to one semester of college at Utah State.

Here they are on their wedding day. I love the large bow in Teresa's hair, the pure and youthful look on their faces. It speaks years of promise. They couldn't have known then, how their children, and their children's children, would rise up and call them blessed (Proverbs 31:28).

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It's beautiful, prodigious really, that one flower can connect generations gone with generations now.

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I want my children to know where they've come from. Who it was that carved their path into the world and made it possible for them to have this abundant, glorious life.

All summer I have felt a strong love for grandparents I've never known. Maybe it's all the family reunions, the journals I've opened. I've read new stories, seen new pictures, heard things I'd never heard before. These people share my blood, my beliefs, even some of my passions.

It is powerful and grounding to learn about them. To know my lineage and legacy.

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We walk our own paths, make our own choices - not knowing who will come after us - or even through us. But our decisions matter. Each one bears sway. We may think our life is singular, independent, void of consequence. But it isn't. Our lives affect those who come after us. And that is a responsibility we must claim. God designed it that way. So we could live for someone else - be part of something greater than ourselves.

Last week, as we passed a hollyhock garden two streets over, Ali called out from the back seat. "Look Mom! Hollyhocks! Your mom's favorite!"

The seed has been planted. A knowing has taken root.

Of Grandmas, hollyhocks, and love.

16 comments:

  1. What a dear memory. The dolls are so sweet. Thank you for sharing!

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  2. Another beautiful post!
    All my family lives across the country and so to keep them real in our children's minds I talk about them. Our kids know that red cardinal birds are Nana's favorite bird. In the last year or so we have been lucky to have a pair of red cardinals in our yard a lot. Every time they see one, the children ask me to take a picture for Nana. And they notice all kids of birds and bird calls. It's a part of their genetic heritage.
    Love your writing...thanks for sharing.
    Charelle

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  3. Oh how I loved this post. I have family and generations on the mind too.

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  4. Those pictures are priceless. Really, so amazing.

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  5. I loved this post too. That picture on her wedding day is my favorite.

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  6. Adore the pictures! Its such a special thing to have beautiful family pictures. I always long to know these people who are in part of my very being who I never got to meet. Maybe by His mercy one day, I will get to meet them!
    x

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  7. What a beautiful tribute to your great-grandma. What a woman! She does have such a kind smile and wise, compassionate eyes. To think of all her hard work and sacrifice raising and loving all those children is inspiring.

    "We may think our life is singular, independent, void of consequence. But it isn't." Such an eloquent of saying it.

    I have had whisperings lately of a similar nature...those reminders of being tied to something much bigger than myself. Although there is a lot of pain that runs through my family tree, I have felt God telling me that one day I will see these people how God sees them and that I will be amazed by the nobility and strength of so many of their souls.

    Thank you for your words today. xoxo

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  8. Knit1,Knit2 - Just saw all your beautiful knitted work you entered into the country fair. Beautiful!

    Charelle - What a sweet connection you've made for your children with the cardinal being their Nana's favorite bird. So similar to the hollyhocks. I loved what you had to say. And I'm with Nana. The cardinal is my favorite bird too. You're so lucky to live where they nest.

    Brod - You too eh? I need to get this book to you. I think you're going to love what O'Connor has to say about fiction, and family, and faith. Thanks for reading my friend.

    Alex - you are dear. love you.

    Kristen - I have another pic I really ought to have posted of Teresa reading a letter from Arthur. Her younger sisters are all vying for a peek. It's precious. Hope you're well dear friend.

    Renwicks - I've missed you! Hope you're doing well. "I always long to know these people who are in part of my very being who I never got to meet. Maybe by His mercy one day, I will get to meet them!" A beautiful statement. Something I hope for too. I believe we will.

    Anne Marie - Your last paragraph was so elegant I had to read it twice. "being tied to something much bigger than myself" - you phrased this in such a way it enlarged my understanding. And I was moved by the goodness of your heart when you said, "one day I will see these people how God sees them and that I will be amazed by the nobility and strength of so many of their souls." That is charity, grace, and a Christ-like mind. As always, you see what I'm trying to say, and you bless my day with your clarity of thought. I love you.

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  9. Cath! We have the same hollyhock bonding in my family! My Grandma, my Mom's mom, had them in the alleyway behind her house and we spent many a summer making hollyhock dolls. Warm memories for sure!

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  10. I love this post. Wow, the power of the past, and how they are intertwined with the present.

    Makes me wish that we had more photos and stories to share with my kids. Thanks for the inspiration!!

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  11. Flowers of certain varieties always remind me of the women in my life. I suppose when I'm remembered it will be dandilions :)

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  12. Living a life that mattered and continues to matter...what a legacy. It's certainly my hope for my own life, to touch people for years to come. I can feel the love coming from her eyes.

    The pictures are so refreshing! Especially as I think of fall and winter shortly upon us...speaking of which, I'd luv to do a fall hike with you and the kids! Actually anything, just as long as we get together one of these times!

    Glad I'm back in full effect, I'll be reading and watching!

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  13. Cath, those pictures brought tears to my eyes...I love them all, but especially the one of Grandma in her older years. That is the picture my mother had on her desk all the years I was growing up. And now, I see my mom in her face even more. I love that you are teaching your children that heritage. I need to do better. I asked my girls if they recognized any of the photos, and they said, "um...no?" (Oh, dear....failure!) What a great tribute to Grandma M, and what a wonderful lady.

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  14. Catherine,
    I'm not sure if you read comments posted this long after your original blog posting, but I wonder if I might have your permission to share this blog posting with my Sophomore English class in high school next spring? I'm hoping to do something family-history-related in conjunction with their World History studies class.

    I loved this posting. It brought back memories of tulips and snapdragons in my Nana's garden.

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  15. Mika - it is powerful - to remember those who make up our past. Thanks for reading.

    Marlowe - Dandelions :) - Sweet. Sami handed me a dandelion just today to put in my hair. I know you jest, but I'm convinced dandelions are the favorite flower for little hands. I loved your comment.

    Cami - Yes, yes. Let's do a hike! What days/times are good for you? Let's get something on the calendar. Please?

    Shelli - I forgot that Grandma kept that picture on her desk. Thanks for jogging my memory. I haven't showed my girls these pictures yet, just told them the stories. I'm so glad you pointed out the disconnect. I need to do better as well. love you.

    Kathy - Of course you can use this in your class. Fascinating topic by the way. How I wish I could have had you as a HS teacher! And I loved the image of tulips and snapdragons... hope you are well.

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  16. Loved this post, Cath. Beautifully written.

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