Dear Holly Ann, Lindell, and Ola Ann;
Each of you has received the same gift. Although it looks like a simple pot of soil, it's so much more. Each container holds six starter bulbs from descendants of mom's garden.
In 2001, after the cancer had set in, mom invited me to her house. It was the last time I went there. She asked Hannah if she would like to harvest the garlic in her backyard. I helped Hannah dig them up. I only chose the ones that grew right beneath my old bedroom window.
Hannah used most of the garlic in cooking, but I set three small cloves aside- three like we sisters; three like my brothers, three like my daughters. A magic number for me. I planted them in my garden, watched over them, chased the deer away, and nurtured them. They meant the world to me. They lived when my mom didn't.
In 2004, the three original cloves finally seeded. I harvested the seeds and replanted them. This is what's in these pots now. Originally, I intended to pass the garlic down to my daughters, the descendants of Annie Mae. I now realize they were meant for the three of you. The magic number.
Lindell- I am so glad I know you. I see sides of me in you: my struggle for autonomy, my strengths, and my weaknesses, my individuality. You are my closest in age sibling, and despite the gender differences, I see more of me in you than anyone else, my sisters included. You are me in a different flavor.
Secretly, quietly, I cheer you on in your life's struggles more than you know. I'm including you in this gift because you are as much mother to your children as you are father, but you are Father. Never underestimate how important that is in the lives of your children or your sisters. Any of us; Holly Ann, Ola Ann, or I can tell you that. We all knew- we never forgot, and remember still. You help us remember and you have no idea what a gift that is to us.
Holly Ann and Ola Ann: you two share so much more than a middle name. Let go of the differences and the hurt and just stop. Let this be the end. Acknowledge privately, individually, that each was hurt, that each has wounds and start again. I've rediscovered both of you to a depth I never thought possible. You have no idea how much I love you, each for your own reasons. I know how much you love each other.
Holly Ann, I am so sorry you don't have an older sister like we all have in you: the second mother, the approving and guiding light. What power your word has over us! You kill mosquitoes and self-doubt. You bring comfort and end sleepless nights. You are the mother to the motherless. Wonder Woman.
Ola Ann: my sweet baby sister. It doesn't matter how much you grow or grow-up. So brave and so brash, hardly needing a hand and still, I would put you on my back if I could and carry you anywhere you needed to go. I would never let you hunger. And then, in this new era, I learn from you. You teach the entire family what has been and can be in your smile.
I love you all in ways so deep and so wide I don't have the words.
Mom was about growing things- children and garlic and gardens. The best things about mom and her family lay beneath the surface. And also like garlic, she knew when to cause a stink. She spread manure and care equally. There is no guarantee your garlic cloves will grow- but then, that's what family is about, right? If yours doesn't grow, your sibling steps up. By doing so, everyone benefits from mom's care.