My Grandma Donna and I left the Tway (Tradeway) store and walked across the covered opening into Carter’s Supermarket, two heavyweight shopping stores in Elwood, Indiana’s southern most shopping strip.
Just inside Carter’s and against the large windows was a huge spread of African violets on display. At age five, I had not seen such an array of beautiful plants. Some colors were deeper and more velvety than others, while some shimmered with a glistening silkiness.
Grandma Donna leaned over, “Mommy’s birthday is coming up. Would you like to give her one as your gift?”
After I selected the ideal flower, Grandma carefully placed it in the upper rack of the cart. I always helped Grandma Donna push the cart and this was an ideal spot to watch over my gift to Mother.
Mother was delighted with the plant and gave it a place of honor on the white wrought iron plant case that stood in our dining room in front of the sliding glass door that opened to the back porch.
In the mornings, the sun’s light altered the seeming solid leaves to a shimmering sea of purple. I can remember eating my breakfast or lunch and watching the plant glow.
Over the years, I added a few more African violets to Mother’s collection but she always made certain my original plant was prominently displayed.
Five years. Ten years. Fifteen years…
The plant had survived and traveled with Mother from 825 Main Street to 927 South A Street (around the corner), to a later Elwood address, and then on to Fowler, Indiana after she retired from the Elwood Police Department.
After a major surgery, a rapid illness, and a move to the Fowler nursing home, Mother lost track of the African violet.
I bought one for Mother’s nursing home room but it mysteriously disappeared.
August 5, 2019, after my sister and I hastily packed Mother’s McCordsville nursing home room after she passed, I began my return home. It was 3:15 AM and my head felt numb. I stopped at one of the large fuel and convenience stores to solidly caffeinate myself. As I replaced my wallet in my back hip pocket and grabbed my coffee and bag of snacks, I caught sight of a display of African violets.
I selected two: one, a shimmering purple, just like the one I’d purchased 50 years earlier, and a deep pink plant, pink being Mother’s favorite color.
Every time I water or attend to the plants, I’m always reminded of the little, much younger me, mesmerized by the sea of fuzziness at the display window inside Carter’s grocery store.
Memories can also encourage us to make it a great day.