Pops of brilliant color helped Margaret Rose Realy, Obl. OSB, savor summertime memories of her beloved grandmother.
My grandmother passed away over a decade ago, but she gave me a bit of a nudge last Friday.
I’d been doing small bursts of gardening over ten days and overdid it. The doctor said ice, meds, and bed rest … I ended up being flat-out for four days.
I felt perkier by Friday. Mid-morning I moseyed out the back door to look at my single ‘Champion’ tomato plant. I laugh at myself and my one good plant … I fuss so over it! When I had grown dozens of tomatoes I would plant them deep, stab the earth with supports, spread newspaper and straw, and periodically remember to tie the vines — watering was optional.
That morning, to my surprise, at the base of the plant was a single fully ripe perfectly formed 10-oz. glowing-red tomato. Without forethought I exclaimed, “Well now, Grandma, will you look at that!” Goose-bumps tickled my arms at the thought of her and I smiled at the memories of her company. She had loved tomatoes, and she too usually grew only one or two plants. Many a summer dinner we shared was nothing more than a plate of sliced tomatoes — with a side of three-bean salad for protein.
Plucking the tomato, I realized I had no one with whom to share my gift … at least not around the table. I got my camera and posted the image. Several others on-line savored the joy.
My back had not healed enough to allow much time at the computer. I needed a walk, and not on hot country roads, so headed for a local shopping center. I required a few personal items for a conference next month, and the Fourth-of-July sales were in full swing. With list in hand, and budget in mind, I set out at a clip through the air-conditioned mall. Shopping didn’t take long and I headed back to the car through JC Penney, past the jewelry counter … usually a safe route for me to take. Not this time.
Hanging from the top hook of a wire clearance stand was the gaudiest red floral necklace I had ever seen. My grandmother would have loved it! I must have said something out loud because the woman at the side counter suddenly looked up at me. Giving her a quick, embarrassed glance, I moved in closer to the stand.
Memories flowed as I lifted the red and coral 1930s-style necklace off the hook. I could almost hear my grandmother’s voice and her delight. It looked like the jewelry I would play dress-up with when I was a child. The shiny molded plastic roses were the color of the ‘Tropicana’ rose that grew in a protected corner of her yard. I smiled and felt as if she, for the second time that day, was near.
I’m not an impulsive shopper, my budget matters. I would never wear that necklace anywhere, ever. Logic aside, I bought it anyway, it made me smile; it helped me recall a deep memory of love, one that went beyond her or me.
In the encyclical Lumen Fidei, Pope Francis writes about truth and deep memory, how it “deals with something prior to ourselves” and that “prior” is love and the truth of being loved by God — and grandmothers.
That gaudy tomato-red necklace hanging from the dressing-table mirror brings delight to my little-girl heart, and brings to my day an unforgettable love that existed even before I was aware that it could.
Copyright 2020 Margaret Rose Realy, Obl. OSB
Images: (top to bottom): Pixabay (2018); copyright 2016 Margaret Rose Realy, Obl. OSB. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Margaret Rose Realy, Obl. OSB lives an eremitic life and is the author of Cultivating God’s Garden through Lent, A Garden of Visible Prayer: Creating a Personal Sacred Space One Step at a Time, 2nd Edition, and A Catholic Gardener’s Spiritual Almanac. A freelance writer with a Benedictine spirituality, Margaret has a master’s degree in communications and is a Certified Greenhouse Grower, Advanced Master Gardener, liturgical garden consultant, and workshop/retreat leader.