"Ginger"--a 10" painted china vase by Ganz@ Susan Paley--my favorite gift vase from Jim.

“Ginger”–a 10″ painted china vase by Ganz@ Susan Paley–my favorite gift vase from Jim.

A "flower girl" vase from Kress Store, 1950, $1.99 (all photos by Marylin Warner)

A “flower girl” vase from Kress Store, 1950, $1.99
(all photos by Marylin Warner)

A Napco vase, 1958, another of our "flower girl" favorites, only 6" high.

A Napco vase, 1958, another of our “flower girl” favorites, only 6″ high.

Dear Mom,

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “The earth laughs in flowers.”  While I was growing up, you always planted our back yard with vegetable gardens, fruit trees and grape arbors. You also kept the front and back yards colorfully bright and happy by planting flowering bushes and assorted perennial flowers, and bulbs for tulips, lilies and gladiolas.  From the time I was seven, I got to choose packets of seeds and plant new colors throughout the flower beds.

After I moved you to Presbyterian Village, I  emptied the house you and Dad had lived in for fifty-two years. Among your big kitchen cupboards filled with spices, plates, glasses, canisters and pots and pans,  two top cupboards were filled with colorful gift vases, pottery and cut crystal vases, and my favorites: two porcelain “fancy lady” vases. We called them the “flower girls.”  I remember picking summer flowers from all around the yard, filling jelly glasses and many of these vases, and setting them on tables and window ledges throughout the house.

You, on the other hand, were more like Edna St. Vincent Millay: “I will be the gladdest thing under the sun! I will touch a hundred flowers and not pick one.”  Early in the morning, before you went to work with Dad at the dealership, you spent a contented hour working in your gardens.  You carefully weeded around the vegetables and flowers,  but instead of bringing in cut flowers, you often brought in huge Beefeater tomatoes, fresh green onions, and zucchini.

When I drive to Ft. Scott to visit you each month, I always stop by Woods’ Market to choose tempting foods from their deli. I also check their flowers and plants for something special that might make you touch the blossoms or sniff and smile. And sometimes, for a just a moment, I think you remember…

The #1 Flower Girl!

The #1 Flower Girl!



Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, Fort Scott Kansas, making a difference, memories for great-grandchildren, special quotations

69 responses to “FLOWER GIRLS

  1. I love this, Marylin! What a sweet photo of your mother. I love the flower girl vases, I’ve never seen anything like them. The last vase reminds me of Lucille Ball. You’re right, your mother is the #1 Flower Girl!

    • These really are fun vases, Jill, but I never thought of Lucille Ball as the last vase. There was a woman in town who wore her hat and pearls and full makeup even to buy groceries. Each time I see that little vase, I think of her and remember how perfectly put together she always seemed.

  2. Me too! Ginger is my favourite – but Jill is right, the last one is definitely like Lucille Ball. I used to love that show, on our tiny black and white TV!

  3. Lovely – I’ve never seen anything like those vases either. Such 1950’s faces! Definitely I Love Lucy! Your Mom has the sweetest smile.

  4. “the earth laughs in flowers” I love that line! What fun flower girl vases 🙂

  5. Cheryl

    Mary is still a beautiful flower girl! Her beautiful smile will always brighten any location.

    • You’re right, Cheryl. She still has that sweet glow, in spite of the dementia’s confusion. It’s so good to hear from those who knew her many years ago, before all this, and still see the same Mary Shepherd anyway. Thank you again for the wonderful birthday letter you posted, and the stories you shared about both of our mothers.

  6. I remember the routine of the vases and flowers.
    This is a dying craft as now we tend to grab a bunch of flowers from the supermarket and the days of lovingly tending to our own gardens is gone.
    A reminder that I could get back to that space and gain from the peace it would bring.
    Thanks for this uplifting post

    • Thank you, Elizabeth. Planting seeds, weeding and watering, tending the vegetables and flowers and smiling at their growth–it is a peaceful and hopeful thing that is a happy part of life. I don’t have nearly as much garden as my mother did, but growing even a few squash and peppers and eggplant, and LOTS of flowers, is a favorite part of my summer.

  7. Marylin, you’re like an artist painting a story word by word.The memories are always touching in some way and I so wish your mother could read these pieces and understand they’re from you to her.She must be so proud of her daughter.
    xxx Huge Hugs xxx

    • Your description of my writing being like painting a story word by word is the best compliment ever, David, and I thank you so much. At this point, my mother smiles and pats my hand and says, “You’re just the nicest girl,” and under the circumstances, that is also quite the compliment.
      Baby Reuben David Chukwudi Eboh took his sweet time getting here, but he is a precious, beautiful baby. Congratulations, Grandpa!

  8. I really relate to you looking for little things that connect to things that used to be important to your mom. I think it does make a difference to both of you.

  9. Your Mom is the #1 flower girl. Just looking at that photo, I can see where you get your sweet disposition. (Your flower girls are lovely, too.)

    So many things that you write about your Mom that remind me of mine. My Mom also loved her flowering garden and peach trees. When we moved to the country (West Amboy), Mom planted potatoes, tomatoes and much more that we got to enjoy throughout the winter as a result of her canning.

    • Food from our mothers’ gardens tastes better than food from anywhere else, Judy. We’re both fortunate to have garden memories. And, in your case, the camping-trip-gone-sideways post will be memories your daughter and grandchildren will look back on and know they’re fortunate to have those memories with you. It all comes back around as memories.

  10. Right now I’m reading a book I’m not sure I’ll end up liking, although the writing is very insightful and skillfully done (The Faraway Nearby by Rebecca Solnit). I’m not sure it will turn out hopeful (and I so crave hope). She (Solnit), in chapters 1 & 2 is dealing, perhaps too truthfully if that’s possible, with her mother’s Alzeheimers. And I while reading this, I keep thinking of you, and your understated ways. I was all-okay reading your Pollyanna-glad post, until I got to the line, “And sometimes, for a just a moment, I think you remember…”


    As a piece of writing, you evoked emotion without playing the sentimental card. Good job.

    But now that I’m someone who is starting to feel like we are almost friends… well, since you are as reserved as I am, let me just say something totally northern-European like, “Cheerio, you’re keeping an admirable stiff upper lip.” I admire you tremendously.

    • I don’t know what to say, Tracy, except…thank you. Truly.

      • I finished The Faraway Nearby (Rebecca Solnit). Recommend–but only when you feel up to contemplating and digging–it’s something like surgery (and deals with surgery, and with many other metaphors). Every literary.

        It was good for me because I’m prepared (and have time) to convalesce (think, mourn, cry) for a time after reading this, knowing that slowly, I will be strengthened by the cutting/digging/churning, and then new growth occurs.

    • I’m glad you enjoyed it. I’m still smiling at your post’s pictures of the swans and the sparrow hoping for crumbs. THAT is what I’d planned when I took my mother out to toss bread for the ducks, but we know what a disaster that was, so I’m in awe that you captured such clear, happy pictures!

  11. Those vases are so amazing but I especially love Ginger. In the retirement home where my aunt lives, there are always little, homely vases of hand picked flowers on the dining tables. It’s so appropriate and right. Your mother is certainly the number one flower girl. Her necklace looks beautiful too.

    • She has many loose, colorfully beaded necklaces on her bureau now, replacing the jewelry that is now put away for safekeeping. When she’s being dressed in the morning, she often chooses the brightest, boldest necklaces, almost like a child, and sometimes two or three to be worn together.

  12. juliabarrett

    Your mother is so dang cute! She still knows how to post for a picture! I love her life, I love the way she’s lived her life, and I love the way you love her and care for her. What a great mom.

  13. I simply love the photo of your mother. She has such a sweet, and lovely smile. I liked the vases, they are so unique and lovely. The letter to your mom is very touching and I liked it very much. I think if you keep trying she may respond one day and that would be so nice. Take care and have a lovely weekend.

    • Thank you very much. There are times–especially in the middle of the night when I help her from the bathroom back to her bed–that some she blinks at me and smiles, and for a minute or two she knows me and we laugh and hug each other. Ah, those are the special minutes!

  14. Don

    Such a touching post, Marylin. Good to see the image of your Mom, and that quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson is so descriptive and poignant.

  15. Your post brings back many fond memories. I swear my grandmother had the Lucille Ball type vase many years ago. Blessings to you and your mom! xo Joanne

  16. You’re such a thoughtful daughter! Even if the memories are not clear I think the feelings invoked by familiar smells and loved things and people must bring feelings of joy. 🙂

    • Oh, I agree with you Helen. There is something about familiar smells and favorite objects, and also singing along with favorite songs, that sneak through the dementia and make her smile.

  17. You are just the nicest girl, letting us know your mother and how much you love her. She may not realize what bond you share, but you know she loves you unconditionally. My mom liked kalanchoes too.

    • I think she does feel that love, Deb. And even if she isn’t quite sure who I am, she responds to the love. What is it about kalanchoes? This is the third plant I’ve bought her in as many months, and even though none of them had much of a scent or vividly colorful blossoms, she really seems to like them, even over the lilies and carnations I used to bring.

  18. Dear Marylin, How wonderful to read your post this morning. I love the photos too.

  19. Amy

    These vases contain many sweet memories, and they are precious. Thank you so much for sharing, Maryiin! Love you mom’s beautiful smile.

  20. I can see I share something with your mother. My yard is full of flower beds which I love to tend but rarely cut. I prefer to visit them in the yard and bring in the veggies instead. Sweet post. 🙂

    • And when she and Dad had to move to assisted living, that was one of the things she missed the most, all the flowers blossoming in the sunlight, to be enjoyed outside but not cut. Yes, you two do share that in common.

  21. Did your mother have a favorite flower or did she just love them all?

    • She loved them all, Darla. Since she didn’t spray weeds, she even taught me how to pick dandelion blossoms, wash them, roll them in egg whites and cornmeal and fry them in a little oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. And she’d smile at the dandelions I’d picked and put in jelly glasses in the center of the table, too. She enjoyed the different flowers of spring, summer and fall, loving them all.

  22. Oh, Marylin, I do wonder if flowers can touch parts of her mind and heart as nothing else can! I have one of those vases like the first one you showed and it always makes me laugh when I put flowers in it. I also remember the 1950s version. Thanks for a great memory and message of hope through beauty!

    • Marylin Warner

      Nancy, I’m certain the flowers and the songs and the foods all touch parts of my mom’s mind and heart. The same with the feel of certain sweaters she wears; even as she’s napping, Mom will stroke the yarn of the sweater and begin humming. There are some emotions that are triggered by the senses, and it’s wonderful to be a part of and watch her enjoy them.

  23. Molly

    What I remember about Grandma, was that although she didn’t choose to cut her flowers, she was completely open to me and my cousin Nic cutting flowers and decorating the entire house with them! Part of this might be because she had sooo many flowers outside, but more likely she just enjoyed watching her grandchildren have fun with some of God’s masterpieces.

    Wonderful post, Mom!!!

    (P.S.) I want the Flower Girls)!!

    • Marylin Warner

      Uh, we’ll hope it’s a few years before you get them, Mookie, but yes, of course the Flower Girls are yours. Everything that Grandma loves(ed) and shared with me will be passed on to you and your children.
      When you and Nic filled glasses and vases with flowers–sometimes weeds, too–Grandma loved every minute of it.

  24. Another lovely post. Such a contented moment captured in the photo of your mother. The vases are wonderful
    My parents created three gardens in their time together. Each one even more lovely than the last.
    They spent hours together tending the garden and at the garden centre selecting a new acquisition.

    • Marylin Warner

      Now those are the kind of “couples” stories that really make me smile, Rod. My dad was a businessman and not a gardner, but he’d come home and see Mom out in the garden and would change out of his suit and tie and into casual clothes. I’d wonder where they were and would look out the kitchen window. They’d be pulling weeds or gathering veggies, talking, smiling at each other, and when they’d walk back to the house, he’d have his arm around her.

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  26. Marylin, I fall more in love with your mother every time I read your posts. She just has such an amazing heart and spirit and as you know from my blog, I too love flowers..but like you, I can’t always leave them in the yard. I like to enjoy them in my home too! Blessings to both you and you mother. Robyn

    • Marylin Warner

      Thank you, Robyn, and yes, I do know how much you love flowers. And I love how you share them with us via your photography. The earth really does laugh in flowers, and for me, nothing brightens a room and makes a gray day bright like a bouquet of fresh flowers.

  27. Jane Thorne

    Your parents planted sweet love Marylin and it shines out of all your stories. Love and flowers to you all. Xx

    • Marylin Warner

      If my dad were still alive and my mother could brush away the dementia, Jane, I would read your message to them, and they’d smile and hold each other’s hands and say, “Now isn’t that Jane just the nicest girl!”

      • Jane Thorne

        Oh Marylin, your memories keep your Dad alive and your Mum well….you are special and a chip off the old block. Xx

  28. A wonderful post. Love the photo of your mom. “The earth laughs in flowers.” I’ll remember that!!

  29. Jim

    Could I mention another kind of flower, one that would feel quite at home in the simplicity and grace of Mary’s garden? This flower’s name is St. Thèrése of Lisieux, also known as “The Little Flower of Jesus.” She was a Carmelite nun. She died at age 24, her body racked with tuberculosis. She left behind an inspiring collection of personal writings entitled THE STORY OF A SOUL. The writings are magnificent in their simplicity, much like Mary has lived her life.

    • Thanks, honey. You’re my go-to guy for wonderful details and stories, and Mom would love the story of the Little Flower. And in Colorado, you also support all my big plans to add more Butterfly Bushes, Wisteria, Hydrangeas, and Poppies…even when it means you do most of the hole digging.

  30. dianabletter

    Hi Marylin, Great post, love your writing & the Edna St Vincent Millay quote. Here’s my FLOWER GIRL story: My daughters were flower girls at our wedding and afterwards they attended another wedding and came back and told me, “Those people had the strangest wedding…they got married BEFORE they had children!”

    • Oh, I love all the stories people are sharing about their “flower” experiences, but this one is is hilarious! What a great tale to share at their weddings!
      Thanks for the pingback for this post–your comment about my blog was very generous.

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