Monday, May 24, 2010

Mama and the violets...

The post below was featured today on my other blog, Thinking About it... I hope you enjoy it!

African violets will always remind me of Mama. She loved them. She loved growing them...along with her peonies, daylilies, daisies, roses, their large vegetable garden and several varieties of fruit trees. She loved taking a "cutting" (a leaf at the steam) and creating a whole new plant - or propagating them. Mama never took a botany class or a horticulture class, but she grew up on a farm in Mississippi. Maybe that explains her amazing touch and love of all growing things.

The first time Mama started growing african violets, that I recall, was after Daddy retired and she and Daddy moved to Mississippi. There, they built a new house in the country, next door to my sister's house on the hill. There was a large laundry room with a nice sunny window and that's where the african violets lived. All colors and varieties lived happily side by side and thrived. Mama would mix up the special blue food for the violets, which she kept in a gallon milk container beneath the cabinet, and would feed the beautiful african violets regularly with it. I don't know how she knew what to do, but she did.

Several months ago, my husband, the macho logger tree farmer, came home with two small african violets for me. They were potted in the tiniest little green plastic pots and were beautiful. Totally different but each one exquisite. One had dark purple blooms and the other one white lacy blooms edged in purple. I sighed and shuddered at my next thought - I was afraid I'd kill them.

I tried to remember just what Mama had done and then I googled african violets. Come to find out, even without Google, Mama had been right all along. African violets need to repotted right away in a special soil mixture just for african violets. I purchased the special soil and two larger pots made of a lovely green glazed pottery. The tree farmer repotted them for me. I cautioned him that "they don't like to be touched", which they don't. Somehow, he managed to get them carefully in the pot.

African violets don't like to be too hot or too cold. Basically, they like the same temperatures that people do. They don't like to be too dry to too wet. They don't like water on their leaves! They need enough indirect light but not too much. Come to think of it, they're just downright finicky, but they reward you for your effort with the most beautiful blossoms.

I'm beginning to wonder if maybe, just maybe, I have inherited a tiny speck of Mama's african violet gene...

Sunday, May 23, 2010


One afternoon during my granddaughters' recent visit, I was sitting at the dining room table with them. The table was covered with fabric, thread, patterns and my portable Singer sewing machine. I was teaching my eight and almost ten year old granddaughters the basics of sewing - how to find the grain of the fabric, the selvages, laying out and cutting a pattern and safely operating the sewing machine.

In the midst of all of this, I mentioned that I wish I'd had a grandmother to teach me to sew and bake as I love to teach my grandchildren. It surprised them to learn that I had not known my grandparents. My father's parents died before I was born. My mother's mother passed away on June 10, 1951 and her father on June 15, 1952. I was five and six years old at the time of their respective deaths. I don't remember them. I don't remember what I called them. As I was growing up, my three older sisters talked about them...about how truly kind and good they were. Sadly, I don't have those memories. Consequently, all my life, I've been drawn to old people...kind, old people. Perhaps that's one reason I love being a grandmother so much...I know that I'm making memories for MY grandchildren.

Perhaps this is also why I'm so interested in my family's history. There are volumes of information and geneological history that I have collected thus late sister Dorothy and I. I've loved finding nuggets of information during the course of searching through census records, ordering birth and death certificates and traveling to courthouses in several states.

I remember finding great++ grandparents...and realizing that had I been researching my family's history earlier in my life, my children might have had different names! I loved many of the family names I found. Some, not so much. There was a "John Benjamin", "Mahalley", "Matilda Caroline", "Octavia Caldonia" (with Caldonia, I knew her ancestors were from Scotland), "Silas", "Samuel Edward" and "Emmarella" to name a few.

I love the above photo of Mama. She was about eighteen here I believe.

My maternal grandmother, Mama's Mama...Modena Emmarella Seals Haney (1872-1951). She was most likely in her early twenties here.

I wonder what my sons would have thought about being named Benjamin and Samuel? And my daughter could have been Emma Caroline. Hmmm....