Bay Reflections

Vol. 8, No. 23
June 8-14, 2000
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Lesson for the Days Ahead
By Kathleen Murphy

It is an interesting thing, the mind, at once offering odd snippets of disarray, then displaying an arrangement of order and clarity of a religious sort. Sending messages and remembrances randomly aloft, while offering meaning of intent as to the next step.

So there was I driving south on Route 97 when thoughts of the beautiful hollyhock bush I’d noticed in the yard that morning floated into my head. A lovely lavender hollyhock flashed in my memory. I was struck by how perfect it seemed: open just enough to appear delicate, yet large and strong in its

trumpet appearance.
In my highway reverie that day, my mind grasped one thing for certain. I must drive straight home, run into the house with this trumpet flower and show my daughter how to make a hollyhock doll. It seemed a spiritual message, a step in the journey — a thing I had intended to do over the years. I remembered with warmth the day my mother showed me how a flower could be a doll.

The lavender trumpet did not make it in the house, nor did I communicate what had seemed a most important lesson on that day. Life as I have come to understand it has a way of arranging and disarranging.

In a few short weeks, this daughter would leave for college. I found myself questioning: What had I taught this child? She came to us as a dewdrop on a petal and now bloomed as a bouquet. Is making a flower doll a needed life skill? Will it help her in academics, in social areas, in knowing what to do with the everydays? Part of me wanted to believe it would, wanted to believe that a teaching so seemingly trivial could offer knowledge to be carried on her journey. The sensible part of me knew in my heart that she has much of what I have been able to impart. A child who comes to us for guidance through those years from birth is ready, at 17 or 18 years of age, to step away and begin anew: college, job, marriage, parenthood — any of the above or combination thereof.

Life’s arranging finds my daughter and me many months and more days along. Those flower memories of four years past have been shadowed and pushed aside. The child is now a young woman anxiously awaiting her college graduation. She looks with anticipation at the rest of her life, standing ready to embark upon each day: nervous, impatient, uncertain, yet confident, eager, strong. As I — ever the offerer of guidance, the make-gooder — reflect still upon lessons not taught.

The hollyhock doll my daughter and I created last summer rode for some months on the dash of her car. It has since gone the way of all flowers that are not dried in sand, a lesson of doll-making giving way to a lesson of nature. A mother gazing as her child takes another step away.

When they are toddlers, we reach to catch as they tumble. Only now the reach is not for the tumble but the knowledge and lessons shared. She is teaching me. The steps taken now are giant steps, no longer asking, “Mother, may I,” but striding on independently toward a future of promise and hope.

I learn in the watching that our lessons are never complete. I learn that there will be sharing throughout our lifetimes. Spring brings new growth. The bright green leaves of the hollyhock are thick and the buds of the lavender trumpet are plentiful. There is good doll-making in the days ahead.

Kathleen Murphy reflects from Southern Anne Arundel County, where she has lived for nearly 16 years. This is her first piece in print in more than 30 years.

Editor’s note: Hollyhocks have just begun to bloom

Copyright 2000
Bay Weekly