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A Sadist With a Sense of Humor

Stories about my Mamaw. A gift to my cousin Lori, who only met her once that she remembers. Set in the hillbilly hollows of Eastern Kentucky. Part of Lori’s and my collective heritage probably includes DNA from both the Hatfields and McCoys. That’s just how things roll around those parts. To read the series from the beginning, click here.

The last time my Uncle Billy was healthy, he took me on a tour of his houseplant garden. Ferns and cacti and waxy leafed things grew everywhere I looked.

This. It is your heritage. Plants and stuff. You have them, right?

I totally had house plants. Violets. Cacti. Ficus trees. Wandering through Uncle Billy’s Houseplant Paradise was like finding my people. He told me a story, a little snippet of history that helped me understand myself.

Divorce.

I decided to end my marriage. It was wrong. A sin. Giving up on what was meant to be. I came home from work early. Crying. The tears so thick I couldn’t see. My watery eyes scanned the landscape and lighted.

On a weed. A group of weeds. Outside the indoor garden I made. In my shoulder-padded suit, I ambled through the grass. Stooped. Pulled a weed. Several. As many as I could grasp without sweating.

And I remembered. My Uncle Billy telling me how he did that. My Mamaw, stooped under the big peony bush in her front yard, pulling one weed and then two. Walking along the creek bank, her fingers grasping like tweezers. Visiting a graveyard on the back side of a mountain, her eager fingers taking weeds, patting moss, making everything whole.

My genetic code seeped through my fingers to make my life full, when love left me bereft. I cannot see a weed today and fail to be thankful for them both. Father. Son. Mother. Uncle.

Mamaw. She gave me a tick. Pulling weeds in work wear. She bestowed it to my uncle. And, he had a daughter. I wonder. Does she have the tick, too? A sadist with a sense of weed pulling humor?

 

32 Comments Post a comment
  1. I loved this Andra. I had wondered why I found weeding so relaxing. Thank you for sharing.

    June 12, 2012
    • It has to come from somebody, Helen. That’s my theory at any rate. :)

      June 12, 2012
  2. Weeding out the wrong choices, calming and terrifying. Ya got’s to prune those bad boys.

    http://cdn-i.dmdentertainment.com/DMVideoPlayer/player.swfHow to Prune & Weed Plants — powered by ehow

    June 12, 2012
    • For now, I am glad to be able to give my violets and pencil cactus my sole focus.

      June 12, 2012
  3. Lori #

    Yes, I have the tick and love that I can now relate it to my heritage. Thank you, cousin.

    June 12, 2012
  4. I am unable to pull weeds without gloves on (makes me shudder, seriously). I absolutely abhor getting my hands dirty and crap under my nails. Who knows why? I come from a long line of wonderful gardeners and cooks, but even as a child who made mud pies – I refused to get my hands dirty and used to fingers to mold my mud pies. :) I must admit when I’m pulling weeds (with gloves on – preferably two pairs of gloves) it is one of the most relaxing tasks.

    June 12, 2012
    • Gloves keep me from getting a handle on anything, but I totally understand. When I had my big rose garden, I had to wear gloves up to my elbows to avoid the thorns. I was forever ripping them off to get at just one thing.

      June 12, 2012
  5. Love the connections to family – especially when we didn’t know it was our heritage and just comes out.

    The picture of the flower is lovely. Reminds me of Georgia O’Keeffe. Is it your flower?

    June 12, 2012
  6. We can in fact only define a weed, mutatis mutandis, in terms of the well-known definition of dirt – as matter out of place. What we call a weed is in fact merely a plant growing where we do not want it. ~ E.J. Salisbury, The Living Garden, 1935

    I pull ‘em if they’re too obnoxious; otherwise, live and let live! :)

    June 12, 2012
    • Karen, at our last house, we clearly practiced this gardening philosophy. :)

      June 12, 2012
  7. Jill Clary Stevenson #

    And I’ll bet Mamaw pronounced peony the old fashioned way – Pee ON ee!

    June 12, 2012
    • I don’t recall her ever saying it, though I am sure she did.

      June 12, 2012
  8. Oh, Andra, those connections to our family that shine through in all the moments of life – the good and the bad in turn. I can always tell a true gardener. He/she is the one in the nursery, picking dead blossoms and pulling weeds without thinking about it or one whose fingers start to twitch in a garden, not her own, and she just can’t help herself as up comes a weed. As you may have guessed, I have dirt under my nails. Though I try to wear gloves, they eventually come off so I can just feel the soil. I love this strain of connections between you and your family, especially your Mamaw.

    June 12, 2012
    • Penny, your garden photos always make me swoon. Both you and Debra put up some fabulous ones. In a way, your blogs have become a garden for me since we left ours. I love seeing what you find growing.

      June 12, 2012
  9. That weeding sounds cathartic. I’m just sorry I have no room for a garden myself.

    June 12, 2012
  10. My mother and grandmother both pull weeds anywhere they see them. I like to do so too, but will generally only do it when I have access to hand washing. Like Lori, I usually wear gloves, but don’t have to. I love to “play in the dirt.” Bill can tell you of the times I go out and just get dirt covered up to my elbows.

    June 12, 2012
    • The best instances of getting covered in dirt are when we didn’t mean to. :)

      June 12, 2012
  11. Ah yes – pulling the weeds out of your life and your indoor garden. Clearly, and I know you’ve figured this out now, ending that marriage was exactly the RIGHT thing to do, because you’ve found MTM and an even better ‘right’

    June 12, 2012
    • Never doubted it, even then. Once I decided to move forward, it was like walking out of prison, into the perfect sunshine. :)

      June 12, 2012
  12. I especially love the beginning of this piece. In fact, that first sentence is incredible! Congrats!
    Hugs,
    Kathy

    June 12, 2012
    • I hope my Uncle Billy/Lori’s Dad is proud of us somewhere today, Kathy.

      June 12, 2012
  13. Like roots spreading out under the soil. There’s a reason they call them family trees.

    I think the green thumb skips in my family. My Great Gram had it, and my mom does, but while I’m capable in the garden, I’m not intuitive, and weeding? Blech!

    June 12, 2012
    • Intuitive is a great word for a gardener with a green thumb. My skills are hit and miss. Some things flourish and others die. I always scratch my head when those things are in the same pot and I’ve done the same thing to all of them.

      June 12, 2012
  14. Weeding is cathartic :-) Lovely post today. I love gardening.

    June 12, 2012
    • Kate, I always enjoy your garden posts. I know MTM still misses his Man Shed.

      June 12, 2012
  15. i thought the garden-fingers was inherited until i watched it skip a generation in my family, fortunately the next lot seem to have it

    June 13, 2012
    • Sidey, I think they do skip people. Some of my relatives have them, and others do not. Garden fingers is a wonderful term. ;)

      June 13, 2012
  16. What a lovely post, Andra. You definitely hit upon why so many of us need to garden. Pulling weeds is such a repetitive action that one can do it mindlessly. It clears my head of all sorts of debris! I am just sure that your Mawmaw and Uncle and others in your family have passed along the appreciation for the beauty of a garden and wherever you go you’ll be finding space for a few flowering treasures. Debra

    June 13, 2012

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