Saved from being a total doofus
Monday May 12th 2008, 12:25 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

E\'s flowers for Mother\'s Day

First, the plums. This is two stories, really, but a lot happened yesterday.

Our house came with an ornamental plum tree that a previous gardener had experimented with and had grafted in a branch of a producing plum tree; it was the oddest looking thing. Burgundy leaves, a graceful shape, and then this one awkward green thing shooting happily off to the side like a two-year-old brought to a formal adults-only party. After a few years, though, that branch got what looked like the mumps and died. Some kind of borer, apparently.

I missed it, so a neighbor gave us some of his plums, and I returned the favor with a jar of plum jam. He thought that was great! So he went back in his yard, picked more, and I made more and gave him a jar from each batch. I had to weigh those plums first, I was dying to know: 45 pounds. His wife was appalled when she found out and apologized to me, while I just laughed it off, saying, hey, I would never have had them to play with otherwise, don’t sweat it!

I’d ignored the recipe that had come with the jars specifying that one had to laboriously remove the skin from each plum. Bag that. For me, everything but stem and stone: the tartness of the skin adds so much depth to the flavor, like sour cherries, only better. You take the bitter with the sweet.

I’ve wanted my own plum tree for years. It would involve digging and putting in a drip system to a far corner of the yard that didn’t have water. We never got around to it.

Part two, written last night:

All the times I’ve said a prayer that I wouldn’t forget. I’d planned this for a year; well, actually, ever since I first got my manuscript accepted.

And yet somehow, on the actual day, I forgot. Given the circumstances, that’s breathtakingly awful, but I did. But I got saved, and so by extension did E, by an offhand comment by my son, who’d called in the evening after the phone had been busy all day yesterday.

Isn’t that the way it so often is? We ask God for help, and He nudges some other person to do some random thing that was just exactly what we needed, while they have no clue and often never will if you don’t speak up and tell them. Although, in this case, it was immediately apparent to both of us.

“Happy Mother’s Day, Mom!” And then my son happened to mention that he’d found out that his future mother-in-law had gone to high school with my friend E.

E!!! Oh my stars, and it’s nearly 8 pm!!!

From the other end of the line, there was the sudden, “‘Bye, Mom, you need to go.” He knew. And go I immediately did, without stopping to comb my hair, just run!

E’s son, who had gone to elementary and middle school with my oldest, while he was away at college, his folks had gotten the phone call no parents should ever have to get. The rest of that story is theirs to tell, not mine. My oldest and I attended his memorial service.

After a great deal of thought as to what would be appropriate, I knitted her a lace stole in navy blue: a color that acknowledged the darkness and the hurt, a color that spoke of the dawn that I promised with each stitch would still be able to come, however long away, and yes, it would be a long way away, I understood that. I wanted to be there, an arm reached around her in warmth and presence whenever I was not. Her son had been artistic and giving, and I wrote a note to go with it saying that I was sure he wanted to comfort her, too: I wanted to be his hands for him in creating this.

That soft lace was nothing, it was everything: it was what I knew how to do to say I cared.

I wasn’t sure when the most appropriate time would be to give it to her, and somehow I dragged my feet. But one day, after praying to get it right for her sake, the answer came in the sudden strong feeling: NOW. Go *NOW.* So much so that I made my kids wait on the lunch they were preparing for me till I got back, and I simply rushed out the door and made that delivery right then.

It was Mother’s Day.

The following spring, I was at Kepler’s for a booksigning by Rachel Remen. I bought an extra copy of her “My Grandfather’s Blessings.” One of Dr. Remen’s patients had gone through similar circumstances and I knew it would help E to feel she wasn’t alone; someone else out there somewhere knew what it was like, more than I, with all my best intentions, ever could. I explained briefly to Dr. Remen, who inscribed it just for E, hoping, along with me, to offer her comfort.

I brought it to her on Mother’s Day.

And every year since then, I have gone to her house on that day with something by which to say, I remember. I’m thinking of you. I want to see you and I want to be with you for a moment on this day. The first time I ever got an amaryllis to bloom in May, its timing was just right, and I took it to E. On Mother’s Day.

Some pains are forever, but over time, the years add up, and E has the delightful distraction now of two small grandsons and the fact that her daughters live nearby, so she gets to see them all often. One of them pulled up with her family as E and I were talking. The joy has been quietly growing, and it’s been good to see and to be just a small part of it by making sure I visit on that day. Without fail. For this year, my plan had been to bring her a copy of my book.

“‘Bye, Mom!”

E had a vase full of flowers ready and a waiting dish of food she’d made me to gift me back with, and thank goodness I got there in time before the day was up. There was still daylight outside. Thank you, God, for speaking to my child when I wasn’t paying attention.

My attention might slip. But His hadn’t.

And now, what my children gave me for Mother’s Day: my own plum tree. My older son is flying in tonight and will be installing the drip system. It is a gift not only of fruit but of the attitude of looking to a future it once seemed I wouldn’t have, a chance to make plum jam from my very own tree again.

I absolutely can’t wait to bring some to E with the first crop that’s big enough for a batch.

Your plum tree wears earth shoes

18 Comments so far
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Amen. That post is the best metaphor for meditative prayer about hope and its fruits that I can think of!

Btw, if you should ever need a poem that is much like this, check “The Art of Blessing the Day” by Marge Piercy. It’s in her book, “What are Big Girls Made Of?”

Comment by Joanne 05.12.08 @ 2:34 pm

I’m so glad you got a plum tree and will be able to make your own jam in a couple of years. I’ll make sure you get some of our wonderful peaches. Can we make some peach jam together? Someone out there needs fresh peach jam, I’m sure.

Comment by Nancy 05.12.08 @ 3:56 pm

You are a gift to the world.

Comment by Diana Troldahl 05.12.08 @ 5:05 pm Mercy. ‘Touching’ doesn’t even come close, heart felt touching gets close…

I never ever peel the plum for jam, that would be so wrong. I don’t peel apricots either…. mmmm, now I’m thinking about plum jam, and peach jam and apricot jam…

Comment by marianne 05.12.08 @ 5:21 pm

Whaddya mean only 4 comments?? I would think that ALL your readers need to at least say: Alison! I was here and read it and I heard you!

Alison. Thanks for yet another beautiful post. You are a marvel.

Comment by Karin 05.12.08 @ 5:32 pm

I read this with bated breath. It is always worth it.

Comment by Amanda 05.12.08 @ 5:45 pm

A wonderful story!! Thank the Lord, who hears & answers our prayers, for the nudge from your son.
The plum tree is beautiful! (What type of plum is it?) There is just nothing like your own fruit trees. My Bartlett pears are an inch in diameter exciting. I’m looking forward to reading about your wonderful plums in the years to come. 🙂

Comment by Toni Smoky-Mountains 05.12.08 @ 5:58 pm

“You take the bitter with the sweet.” How symbolic. True in life and in cooking.

Comment by Lynn 05.13.08 @ 12:51 am

LIfe is Bittersweet at times just like plum jam with the skins left on. How beautiful of you to offer such a loving gesture of rememberance to your friend on each Mothers Day for the son she lost.

Comment by Danielle from SW MO 05.13.08 @ 5:26 am

Alison, you’re wonderful! <3

Comment by Amy 05.13.08 @ 5:54 am

Your stories are always moving, but I’m sitting here trying to type through the blurrs that are tears. Thank you for sharing that with us. God can nudge through emails, so why not your own flesh and blood?

Enjoy your tree.

Comment by Channon 05.13.08 @ 6:19 am

I think you should rename your blog “Expect a Miracle.”

Thanks again for sharing.

Comment by LizzieK8 05.13.08 @ 7:54 am

You’re magnificent.

Just sayin’. 🙂



Comment by Kristine 05.13.08 @ 9:43 am

Jung called it synchronicity. I call it God. Thank you for sharing this beautiful story.

Comment by Linda W 05.13.08 @ 12:52 pm

Thank God your son called — what a great story of love and friends.

Comment by rho 05.13.08 @ 6:16 pm

And not only did he call–Ann thought to mention it to him, and he later thought to mention it to me, as soon as he could get through on the phone on Sunday. Ann was paying attention, too.

Comment by AlisonH 05.13.08 @ 6:22 pm

What a gift you are to your friends.

Comment by amy 05.13.08 @ 6:27 pm

what a beautiful story – it is amazing how much we can touch others lives and how we can cherish others. I am glad that you were reminded in time… God works for us and with us if we let Him.

Comment by Lise 05.20.08 @ 9:46 pm

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