Saturday, July 11, 2020

Lavender Love

When I look at this photo, the first words that jump into my head are, Baby Moses in a basket floating through the bull rushes. 

Can you see it? 

I mean, the poor kid has a purple head and a green body, but that's not a deal-breaker for me.

Next, my brain leapfrogs to the one and only time in my childhood life that I went to Sunday School.

With my grandmother.

She was a highly qualified Sunday School teacher, having graduated with a degree in children's ministry (the only option for a woman in those days) from Cincinnati Bible College and Seminary back in the mid-1920s. Grandmother raised her own daughters in the church, but when it came to bringing her grandchildren - or at least my brothers and me - to the faith, she followed a strictly hands-off policy. Just once was I invited to join her, when I was maybe five or six years old, and I leaped at the chance. 

That morning impressed me deeply. We learned the story of - you guessed it - Baby Moses in a basket floating through the bull rushes which both fascinated me and filled me with heartbreaking horror. What kind of mother would abandon her baby by shoving him into a river?

Well, a desperate one, for sure. I understand the story better now, but I still find myself horrified at the thought of what this dangerous world sometimes does to us. 

On that morning, all I knew for sure is that the story was imprinting itself on my psyche as I sat and quietly punched out my cardboard figures, then set up my own scene of the baby's miraculous recovery. 

And though I never went back to my grandmother's Sunday School classroom, or anyone else's for that matter, much to my surprise, I later became a Sunday School teacher myself, and for many years, taught fascinating and sometimes heartbreaking stories to another generation of children. 

I'm glad my grandmother was still alive to know about that. 

But I digress.

This story is actually about the lavender plants growing in the south gardens of my front yard. After suffering a torn rotator cuff and ignoring this happy corner for, oh, you know, ten months, I finally got to it last weekend and made some much-needed structural changes. Over the years, the lavender plants in this space have grown leggy and wooden, which signals big trouble for such a plant. Though they were giving the current bloom all they'd got, they were undeniably overgrown and out of sorts.I decided to give them a hard pruning, but first I called to my fourth-born.

I need to cut these suckers back and today's the day. Would you be willing to harvest all the flowers?

And before I could say, Bob's your uncle, she'd grabbed her trusty bonsai scissors and a basket, and began to gather the lavender in.

Watching her work, my thoughts drifted first to the aforementioned Baby Moses in a basket floating through the bull rushes image, and then to my grandmother's sachets.

Now, my mother liked to garden too, but my exuberant passion for gardening is a gift from Grandmother. 

She too cut huge beds into her lawns and heaped them with dazzling displays of blooms, just as I do. 

She too loved lavender and planted wide swaths of it, just as I do. 

And she too harvested the buds of lavender flowers, just before they opened into full bloom. She tied them into careful bundles, and dried them in a dark, cool corner of her mysterious and slightly spooky basement. When they were ready, she sewed tiny pillow cases of muslin, and stuffed them full of the tiny purple gems, and showed me how she kept them in her dresser drawers to infuse her clothing with the sweet scents.

And better yet, she gave me some of the dried lavender and a few scraps of cloth so I could make my own dresser drawers smell sweet.

Just as I still like to do. And my daughters also do too.

As I watched my daughter sort and stack and prepare our lavender for drying, all these memories about Moses and sachets and warm stems of lavender lying in the sun tumbled merrily around in my head and soon connected together to become one cohesive and unending story about family and faith and flowers. 

About love. 

And now I'm happy to share my story with you. 

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