How I Found Forever Through My Mother's Garden

July 19, 2021 / Bella Devega

Dirty hands and summer heat is what I remember. I watched my mother fret over flowers of every hue. I used to ask her why she would waste her time with an annual flower. Though beautiful as those Chrysanthemums and Angelonia were, their mortality was short. They’d grace us with their beauty until the winter cold would come to freeze their petals and shrivel their roots. They would come and go, as the seasons do, for spring only lasts so long. She would tell me, “Just because you know something won’t be there forever doesn’t mean it isn't worth caring for at all.” Some things are only meant to last a moment, and we should just let them happen. I paid this little mind, for I didn’t care much for flowers.

Then, as seasons came and seasons went, I grew up.

As I grew older, boys became a constant in my life. I had a new crush every week, a new boy to star in my maladaptive fantasies. Boys would catch my gaze, and that was enough for me to scribe their names in journals I made sure to keep out of anyone’s reach. The movies I would watch gave me hope– someday, a boy was going to look at me and fall. He wouldn’t need to hear me speak, share my interests, or know my heart. He would simply see me, and he would want what he saw, thorns and all. I was ready for the friends to lovers. I was excited for the boy next door. I waited for my “right person, wrong time.” Thoughts of a cinematic love story shrouded my mind and clouded my perception of reality. The media teaches us that this is what love is, that it will be a vivacious story to tell when the deal is sealed and there’s a ring on your finger.

As boys came and went, I would build them into wonderful caricatures, better versions of who they really were. Each boy I had ever liked became another set of annual flowers in a garden I wasn’t yet ready to care for. Each one, a moment in my life that I get to look back on with a light heart and nostalgic mind. I understand now what my mom meant when she said small things should still be allowed to happen, even if they don’t come to mould our futures. Each of those annual flowers had a place in my garden once – colorful, innocent and bright.

My first perennial love came as a taste of reality around my sophomore year of high school. He was kind and funny, as they always are. I knew as soon as I spoke to him that he would be an idea I wouldn’t be able to shake. He held my attention in the honey of his eyes and the curve of his smile for nine months until he finally got a clue. From then on, it was warm for a year, our gardens full of beautiful Asters and Hibiscus. The sky was always rosy and the ground was always lush with him. This lasted for a year, one round of seasons, until the summers got hotter and tending to the garden became difficult.

Where I was full of empathy and a lover of simple things, his spirit ran hotter than mine. He always opted for adventure. He slowed his pace to match mine, an act of love that only made me feel sorrow when remembering the thrills I could not give him. There would be periods of time where we would say we were out of sync, where one of us would take on the role of loving the other a little more, just to avoid the blame for our potential wreckage. Our attempts would crumble every so often, and as the seasons came and the seasons went, I always feared they would take him too.

Two rounds of seasons have come and gone, and we approach spring once again. We have grown, and that rose-colored fantasy I always had of marrying him no longer plays in my head. My comfort is no longer rooted so deeply in another, entrenched in the idea of our forever. Rather, it empowers me to care for myself by seeking happiness outside of him. I seek thrills for me, and he is merely a passenger that I no longer live for, but live alongside. I always believed that because I was holding on so tight, he would pull away–that the more effort I put into fixing things would only prove that I should not have to put effort into love.

Then, I remembered my mother’s garden.

A garden needs more than love to flourish. You must always put forth the effort to keep everything watered, and avoid overgrowth or weeds. Some days are hard. You may wake up and consider that maybe your garden would grow better in someone else's hands. Other days, you worry about overwatering. You fear your love is suffocating, and you will inevitably drown the flowers under your endless insecurities. This is the hidden face of love, but as you tend to the things you hold dear, you learn more about why you love them so deeply. You remember how clear the sky is the day after a storm. The calm of the dew on the leaves and the stillness of the morning. The way you still fall for them every day, even years after that first tumble. These moments, like petals pressed between the pages of a book, are timeless. My mom cared for her flowers no matter their lifespan. It taught me that the effort you put forth will never be in vain. You will always have those memories to remind you how loving you can be, and how vulnerable you can be when you’re loved. That is why we may find fulfillment in both the timely limitations of Marigolds and the limitless lifespan of Peonies. ■

By: Bella Devega

Graphics by: Jiwon Lee
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