My grandfather loved his flower garden. I recall my mom planting a few tomato plants for them one year, but for the most part, they grew the flowers. A mountain of snapdragons. Hoards of little pansies that my grandma always says look like men with mustaches. Peonies as big as your head. And my favorite: an enormous, overgrown, out of control day lily bed with a seemingly endless variety of colors and styles.
One November a few years ago, we helped my grandmother clean out and pack up the house, a heart-wrenching process I’m sure many of you have been through. My sister and I were reminiscing and just kept coming back to the same point: it’s a shame to leave the garden. We wish we could take the garden with us. I’m not sure who first suggested it, but we landed on a wild plan to dig up some lily bulbs. I say wild only because they were already under several inches of snow, so we weren’t exactly sure where the lawn stopped and the day lily bed began. Still, we got trowels, pots, and soil — there was still plenty of all in the shed — and about froze our fingertips off digging up what we hoped were lilies.
At the time, both of us lived in apartments, so our lily bulbs started out in pots. My sister’s, sadly, didn’t survive the transplant, but I managed to borrow a corner of my in-laws’ garden and get mine in the ground early that spring. Only one fragile little sprout came up that year, but my grandma encouraged me to be patient. “The first year, they sleep. The second year, they creep. The third year, they leap!” She is full of little bits of wisdom like that.
This is the third year. Last fall, we moved them from my in-laws’ garden to our own as we became homeowners and gardenowners. This spring, my grandpa’s lily came up in force. I think it is the most beautiful bloom I have ever seen.
As soon as it’s big enough to divide, I’m sending some to my sister, who is also a new homeowner and gardenowner.
These things are important to me. My grandpa didn’t live to meet any of his great-grandchildren, but this lily — along with many of his carvings and paintings and even our dining room table, which he painted bright blue — serves as one tangible way they can know him and feel connected to him. His love of beauty and the joy he took in making things grow are parts of the legacy he left for them.
How have you helped your children understand and stay connected to your family history? What values and traditions are part of the legacy you are passing on to them?