Be Open
Published in

Be Open

My Mother’s Plant

Image by Andy Castille via Unsplash

About ten years ago, my mom received a plant as a gift from a colleague. Mom worked as a cafeteria manager at a K — 8 school in the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston. The colleague was a teacher who appreciated my mother’s support of the students during their breakfast and lunch times. The potted plant was full of pink and rose-colored flowers. My mom loves flowers and she placed the pot on the mantle right above the sink in our kitchen.

At that time, mom had been living with us for nearly eight years. She moved out of her apartment complex after my younger brother had gone off to serve in the military. The apartment complex was three floors with a large living room-kitchen combo, two full baths, and three bedrooms. It was part of a collection of newly renovated apartment complexses in an area known as Jackson Square.

We had moved to the Jackson Square area after spending much of our childhood living on Quincy Street in another section of Dorchester. For many years, my brother and I had played in a large backyard of a three-story yellow and white house. The centerpiece of the backyard was a rose bush that bloomed every Spring. The roses were a deep, blood red and as big as my hand.

Our neighbors changed over the years and a family moved in one year that led to our eventual move to Jackson Square. The neighbors had children around our age and they were not very friendly. The children quickly took over the backyard. They’d run around, kicking up grass and dirt, throwing rocks at stray cats, and destroying any flowering plants — including the rose bush.

The rose bush survived for a couple more Springs before our landlord decided to make renovations to the yard. He dug it out and threw it away as if it were trash. My brother and I were devastated. When the backyard was empty, we went out to the spot where the rose bush has once bloomed. All that was left were a few stray petals scattered around a giant hole.

What led to our moving was more of the neighbor’s shenigans. They would steal our mail and packages. They would leave the front door to the building open. All sorts of people would come and go at odd hours of the day and night. Many of them would crowd the front steps of our home, harassing anyone who happened to walk by. The final straw was when the mother of the children came to our door to speak to our mother. I ever heard her apologizing to mom about her kids throwing bricks at my mother and the next door neighbor.

I was livid! My mother had been received a glancing blow on her leg from one of the bricks. It caused a bruise and was sore, but thankfully nothing worse than that. I wanted to confront the woman, but my mother blocked me from speaking to her. The neighbor quickly left when my brother approached them. He's also upset over what he had heard.

It was time to move. The neighbor and her family had become dangerous. Mom was reluctant to move. She had so many memories tied to our home. We all did. But we could no longer stay when our peace was being disrupted on a daily basis.

After a short search in the classifieds, I found Academy Homes. That was name of the section of the apartment complex. The ad stated there were vacancies. I convinced my mother to contact the leasing office. Within a matter of days, she had the keys and we were packing up our belongings.

We went from a big backyard to a little patch of grass at our new home. It was shared with the rest of the tenants in the building. Mom bought house plants to decorate the living room. We missed our old home, especially the rose bush. But our new home was drama-free and restored our peace.

Four years ago, my mother passed away due to complications from ovarian cancer. Her plant, still on the mantle, had withered like my mother before she had died. I was determined to save it. It became an obsession. I watered it every day. I made sure it receives extra sunlight. I even bought more plants to keep it company on the mantle.

All of my efforts paid off. The plant is still alive today, sitting on the mantle with its plant buddies. This plant was a gift to my mother and now it’s a gift to my family. . In a strange way, I feel that as long as the plant alives, my mother continues to live on in our home. Every day I always think of her and when I see a bit of green sprout from the plant, I smile.

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Shirley Jones Luke

Shirley Jones Luke

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Shirley is a poet and writer. Ms. Luke enjoys reading, fashion and travel. She is working on a manuscript of her poems and an essay collection.