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.
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.
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.
This is how my mom remembers her Grandma Teresa - my Great-Grandma Manwaring. Don't her eyes look kind?
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.
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.
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.
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."
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).
It's beautiful, prodigious really, that one flower can connect generations gone with generations now.
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.
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.