My mother’s love
There was a magnificent mango tree in my mother’s yard in Florida. It was more than magnificent, spreading its branches in such a way that you could sit comfortably underneath out of the burning sun and tropical heat.
There was something exotic about that tree and its luscious fruit
We visited Mom over the winter school break.
Mangos ripen in the summer. I often mused about what luscious jam mangos would make.
So, Mom being Mom, would, if the harvest was good, send me a box of mangoes so that I could make my fantasy preserves.
My mother lived in a little two bedroom house in St. Petersburg.
Every year, we would pack up the family and visit.
She adored those visits, planning for months ahead. The house was cleaned top to bottom, roll away beds secured and made up meticulously.
She collected information about local attractions and planned for at least one picnic at Fort DeSoto.
We arrived ready to enjoy warmer weather and spend one exhausting day at Disney World. The rest was up to our energy and which child had become ill.
Ask me where the pediatricians’ offices are in St.Pete.
Mom would suggest a visit to the Tyrone Square Mall, or a trip to the Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary or an afternoon at the turn of the 20th Century at Heritage Village. It was all fun but strangely uncomfortable.
Mom did everything.
Mothers and daughters have a Byzantine relationship complicated by a fierce love and a consistently negotiated dance of who is taking care of whom.
I wanted my mother to enjoy our company. I didn’t want her to exhaust herself in our service. I wanted her to know that I was a grown up capable and caring as she.
With that in mind, I would get up very early and go into the tiny kitchen.
I wanted to make breakfast for everyone, giving my Mom some time off from her duties as chief cook, bottlewasher and major domo.
As hot as the days were, mornings were pleasant and when I opened the little window over the sink, that mild morning would rush in accompanied by the calls of the mourning dove.
As I began to organized for breakfast, it never failed, Mom’s mother’s ears would have alerted her and she would be there arguing for me to cease and desist.
It would be back and forth for a while until we both sat with a cup of coffee and talked. Unplanned and pleasant, these dialogs were about small things… about her little dog, the children, work, her volunteering, the gardens … the everyday things that make up our lives.
There were days when I did the laundry.
The washing machine was in the garage. There was no dryer but there was a clothes line.
I would start to hang the clothes when she would appear to help.
After the clothes were safely pinned into the blazing Florida sun, we would retreat to the chairs under the mango, sipping iced tea and continuing our mother-daughter conversations.
There were no contentious topics, just questions and declarative statements about our lives. As sweet as the fruit that was ripening on the tree.,
It’s only now when I have grandchildren that I realize how important it was to my mother to plan for our visits, to prepare the house, plan the meals and outings.
It was her way of expressing her love that had to fill in the few days when we were together with all of the affection unexpressed because of distance.