Sunday, September 14, 2008

Mothers and Daughters

The girl had taken a PhD in philosophy and this left Mrs. Hopewell at a complete loss. You could say "My daughter is a nurse," or "My daughter is a school teacher," or even, "My daughter is a chemical engineer." You could not say "My daughter is a philosopher." That was something that ended with the Greeks and the Romans.

From Good Country People by Flannery O'Connor

I once had the feeling I would dig my mother's grave with my writing too, but I later discovered that this was vanity on my part. They are hardier than we think.

Flannery O'Connor writing to a friend. From The Habit of Being: Letters of Flannery O'Connor

Maybe every woman has an "I'm becoming my mother" moment. For me it was when my mother saw our house for the first time. She looked around and said, "The light is wonderful. I like that you left most of the windows bare." At once, I remembered the planning stages for the house that my parents built in south Georgia. Everyone was to get one thing that they wanted. My father's wish was that he would never have to mow another lawn. The house is way back in the woods and the "landscaping" is pretty much what grows wild. I forget what my wish was, although I suspect it had something to with the green carpet in my room which was different from the rest of the carpeting and which I grew to dislike pretty intensely. My mother's wish was that she would never have to cover a window. She paints and has an artist's appreciation for the quality of natural light. I guess maybe I have that too because since we've lived in this house, I've resisted window treatments except where concessions to modesty or privacy make it necessary.

As a teenager, I wasn't crazy about living in the country and I'm still a committed urbanite, but when I visit my parents now I find myself filled with a deepening appreciation for their choice. It's peaceful there and there's a sort of quiet delight in being able to look out any window and see an unfiddled-with landscape.

So maybe I am turning into my mother and I too will someday live in the country but for now, my adventures, gardening and otherwise, will remain of the urban variety.

Here's my strawberry pot.

What you see here all came from a single plant! Strawberry plants have some very interesting qualities one of which is that the "mother" plant which in this pot is the plant at the top -

- sends out runners, or "daughters".

You can propagate more plants by taking the daughter and locating the node with the plantlet -

- then pressing the plantlet to the soil and securing it down with a u-shaped holder. There are clips manufactured and sold for this purpose, or you can do what I do and use a paper clip. Unfold the paper clip and reform it into the proper u-shape. Once secured (and properly watered and fertilized) -

the daughter will root and grow into a new, viable plant.

Pretty neat, huh?

I'll admit that I bought the mother strawberry under a bit of duress. It was early summer and our local garden center had a couple of pots of leggy plants on display and drastically marked down. Lola pretty much insisted that I buy one. With container gardening, you usually buy a transplant as early in the spring as you can and you get a small one so it has time to develop some strong roots before it flowers. This plant had a lot of flowers on it and I think Lola, who I'm sure had visions of home grown strawberries within a week or two, was dismayed when I made it my first act, after potting the plant, to snip off all the flowers. It feels barbaric when you do it, but, just like thinning a lettuce bed, it is essential for the ongoing health of the plant. Most container gardeners treat strawberries as an annual, buying new plants every year, but I have something different in mind. I'm going to winter-over the pot and let it flower again next spring. I'll bring it indoors if it gets really cold, but it should be fine most of the time. By propagating daughters from the mother and then propagating off those daughters as they become mothers, I hope to create in this one container, an entire strawberry patch...urban gardening style!

Today's Twist

Flannery O'Connor was an American writer who published 2 novels and more than 24 short stories between 1950 and 1964. She was born and raised in Milledgeville, Georgia and returned there in 1951 when she was diagnosed with lupus, a disease which eventually claimed her life, but more than 10 years beyond the time that the experts had initially given her. O'Connor had a lively, curious mind and a keen sense of the absurd. She was also a devout Catholic living in the very Protestant Deep South. Most of her writing has to do with characters, often self-described atheists or fundamentalist Protestants, who experience a sudden moment of divine presence or revelation, usually through an ironic twist of plot. Sardonic and unsentimental, O'Connor was by turns amused and exasperated by the public and critical response to her fiction. Her view was that she was writing realistic stories, specifically stories that embodied Catholic realism, and the fact that these were seen by some (and still are) as "grotesque" was both humorous and frustrating to her. A master of style and character, her writing remains fresh today even as we in the South struggle with different issues and (perceived) realities.
O"Connor never married nor had a long term romantic relationship. She was a prolific writer of letters and the bulk of her intimate relationship was with her visitors, correspondents, and with her mother, Regina Cline O'Connor, who devoted herself completely to the care of her daughter when she returned home after the diagnosis of her disease. O'Connor was equally devoted to her mother. In a letter to her dear friend, Sally Fitzgerald, she writes that her greatest fear is that her mother would die before her. "I don't know," she writes, "what I would do without her."


Tiffany said...

I like the connection between mothers and daughters and your strawberry plants. I am definitely turning into my mother. I find myself exhibiting some of her quirky behaviors (that I used to make fun of) constantly. But, I'm okay with it. I love my mom, after all.

Dea Anne said...

Yes. For me, it's my mother's very concern with details and with controlling - not people - but situations where I feel I know the right way to do something. Not bad traits necessarily. I hope I'm also developing some of her grace and serenity, qualities of her that I've always admired. I love my mom too and I was thinking a lot about her as I wrote this. Thanks, so much, for the comment.