I get a kick out of seeing new landscape ideas in Garden Design magazine, known for its cutting edge sensibilities; rain gardens, succulents all the rage, dry stream beds and such. I guess they didn't know my mother was doing all that 40 years ago.
Sometimes you need the perspective of time to appreciate your parents. But I think I always knew my mother was ahead of her time. No matter how she tried she couldn't fit the conventions of her day, and at some point I think she decided to follow her own creative spirit, the heck with the rest of it.
She had a hard life growing up in Mississippi and Tennessee, a daddyless child reared by relatives while her widowed mother worked to support them. She lived in Memphis boardinghouses during the school year, and red-dirt farms through the sticky hot summers. She was painfully thin and even more painfully shy.
Along with other family members, moving to California was like a dream come true. A heartbreakingly short first marriage haunted her for years. However she became a working girl, a typist for officers and generals at the Marine Corps Air Station in El Toro, CA. She loved her independence and her shiny new Ford.
Loree (Jobe) Fleming back in the day......... The Garden Buzz
Then a young Marine caught her eye, and he said it was "bells and whistles" when he saw her. My parents were married for over 30 years; their age difference seemed radical back then to many. But my mother was so young at heart and my father so serious, they met somewhere in the middle.
As a mother to a small child in her 40's she had no interest in the young mom's kaffeeklatch. She seemed to find friends in people that needed friends more than herself; a neglected grandfather, an ostracized gay neighbor, the quirky musicians and artists that hung out in our little beach town, Dana Point.
I was more apt to find my mother at her easel painting in the kitchen than baking cookies. She approached every domestic chore with a unique little twist, whether it was sewing, decorating or cooking. She was an early-adopter of recycled objects. Our home had a ship's hatch cover for a coffee table and hanging lamps made of beach glass.
She had a boundless gratitude and awe for nature, I can hear her exclaiming during car rides, "Look at those wildflowers", and then a few seconds later, "Look at those" and on and on. I can see her picking wild blackberries with her bucket and snake stick in hand, her freckly legs all scratched from the thorns. She was mesmerized by the changing colors and light over her beloved ocean and longed to capture it in her self-taught oil paintings.
Her landscaping was equal part plants and rocks plus beach finds. A square of black beach rocks with baby tears moss was an elegant solution to a downspout. She filled large, shallow bowls she made in pottery class with textured succulents. Dry stream beds from rocks she collected from the shore meandered through our windswept flowers. Silvery driftwood acted as sculpture in contrast with the bright, silky petals of ranunuclus. Our yard was never one to sport petunia beds or boring begonias.
Sorry to go on and on. Except that Mother's Day is Sunday and she said it was her most important holiday. She never got to see me as a mother. It's been 22 years and I miss my mom.