She was born in Connecticut..... I had never known that. Both my father and uncle predeceased her and I never got this information. I only know that because I did her memorial service and burial.... and when I had to sign all the records I found that rather intriguing piece of information.
Her parents were farmers who came over on the boat for a new life. She took up the cause and would, wherever she could, planted tomatos just about Mother's Day. Of THAT I have written before, but never of the geraniums.
When we lived in Madison, NJ our apartment building was one block in from Main Street... on the less economically well off side. Our street was a mixture of the black and white communities. Half on the block were black, the rest the veritable melting pot.
Mare lived on the ground floor of the apartment building ... or can I say that??? The front of the house was on fairly high grassy mound in which were imbedded some concrete steps. Where the concrete left off, the grey wooden steps took over to a shallow porch that was covered with a somewhat shoddy shingle overhang supported on the edges of the porch and the entrance with thick square beams. A rather creaky banister went 'round the porch held up by white wooden slats - rather thin ones, actually..... THAT was the front of our palace
To the left, a cinderblock garage followed by a very unconventional apartment building with red shingles and a kind of turret at the top.
If you went left from there you were at the black barbershop and a couple of stores turned into housing- across the street was where the mechanic of the town did pretty good business... and even had a Sinclair gas pump inside if you were pressed for fuel. If you turned right, Mr. Burrow's car service, Mattola's Italian deli/grocery store and Sam Gordon's Appliance Store, the Baptist church and a bit further up the elementary school.
There was a side entrance to the building. A small stoop on the 'ground' level built directly underneath the outside stairwell to the 2nd floor where we lived. You knew spring had arrived when Mare cleaned out the window boxes, filled them with the most dark, fertilized soil I can remember seeing. Then she let me help her bring out the plants..... all geraniums not quite on the verge yet. She kept them in a storage room on the first floor, in the cool, until she thought the time had come to celebrate spring. With a dozen mini clay pots in hand (well, in arms, really) we went to the stoop and then went to get two very sturdy spoons that - no doubt - had returned home from miliary service with my Dad and Uncle Bob.
I got a short stool and started on one end, as she did the other, following her instructions all the way..." Alright, it's time to dig. Deep enough for even the little white roots, now." The conical hollow was made. "To the pots!" There was a song in her voice. Off the stool to pluck up the precious cargo. "Put your fingers around the bottom of the green part, turn it over and tap tap tap tap......there it comes!" Somehow I never broke or cracked these clay pots - even to my amazement. Mare helped me back on the stool to do 'the little hourglass'. The roots had been aching to get into something larger... and I eased them into the burrow. "Fill around and pat, but don't squash...... very good! Next hole- remember-- let them have enough room to be neighbors".
This went on until the job was done. I quizzed her why I was so itchy and what the funny smell on my hands, arms and clothes was. "I think it smells like what the first green and brown smelled like when
God made it that way. Now, scrub with the Lifebuoy and then wash it off with the Ivory soap." She left me standing on the stool which had been moved into the bathroom while she went into the adjacent kitchen to cook some special chicken soup. After getting cleaned up I went back through the hall and opened the back door. There they were, standing straight and medium tall, bubbles of buds about to burst on top and fuzzy bottomed green leaves popping out here and there. But how did the boxes stay magically balanced on the railing?? Perhaps it was just the kind of magic that only Grandmothers can make happen (actually, my father had slipped on some brackets, unbeknownst to me).
Within 3 days there was a riot of red blossoms on the rail of a stoop on a building that had nothing more of note to it than a clothes line that ran from each side porch to a huge tree on the neighbor's property.
The second trip I made to Michigan last year to visit C we spent a Sunday afternoon driving about and landed at a nursery. We wandered in separate directions around the place until I heard her call....."Hey, Jo - what color geraniums do you like?" Geraniums. I hadn't thought of them in years. I turned around to see that familiar red ---- oh, not that the new colors and varieties are bad.
Definately the red. "My choice, too. How about that!" The flats of miscellaneous flowers came back to Chelsea. C did such a good job on them! Through some of the blazing summer heat they still hung on....thank goodness. And they are still going strong, as you can see from the above. Soon they will be outside in C's over-the-post boxes and planters.
The next time I go to Michigan - in July - I'll be able to see them in person..... and tell them that Mare and a whole bunch of Farmers send their best regards.