African violets have been on my mind for a few weeks now.
While I love flowers and plants and do my best to keep something blooming (or at least alive) around me, I have never had a desire to buy an African violet, at least not consciously. But, like other things that recur in my journal and in my thoughts, this particular flower keeps calling me. It keeps ending up on those endless post-it notes that I thought I was done with, too.
My daughter, ever the encourager, told me early on, “Go get you one!”
I tried. No store I visited had them in stock.
When I mentioned my search to Meagan, my coworker, she said knowingly, “You just need more happiness.”
That may be true. I am on a mission at work this year to surround myself with extensions of my creative life: photographs, quotations, pieces of art, ephemera that says “good news” in the midst of too much gray.
I love my students, but I see the road we are traveling, and it is going to be a long one. We need something around us to keep us going. Small bursts of purple blooming might be a good idea.
I also need something to tend to, something that relies on me to make sure I stay connected to life, not papers. Humans, not more emails. Sometimes it is just good to water a plant.
African violets need a little lamp light–I remember that from my Aunt Frances. She is remembered most by family members for her beautiful roses, but I remember the violets, too. She had several of them under a grow light in her bedroom on Walnut Street.
She tended to them, talked to them, told them they needed to bloom more.
She was full of chatter and always had a better way of doing something. She had a home remedy for every ailment. She laughed a lot and always had a joke to tell. She read voraciously. I loved going to her house.
She had all those rose bushes in the front yard, and a pair of snippers in her mailbox on the porch. She was a seamstress, so people came and went throughout the day. Every single person could count on getting a rose on their way home. She even gave them to the mailman when he had time to wait. She stopped her work to see about people. To snip roses. To make people happy.
Her shop was a little room on the front of her house that might have been a porch at some point. It was strangely made, with a narrow entry and a high countertop on the right that was always stacked with fabrics, threads, patterns, notes to herself.
Farther down the room, there was a wall covered with notes and names and phone numbers. It was cryptic. I used to stand and read some of the words and wonder how in the world she could keep everything straight. The phone rang incessantly, and sometimes she didn’t hear it over the hum of her sewing machine.
She had material and supplies for sewing everywhere. Everywhere. It was a mess, really. I am surprised that people even did business with her because when you walked in, it was overwhelming with all the clutter. But, people came. They came even when her eyes got bad and she didn’t sew as beautifully any more. They came because she gave them something more than a straight hem or a shortened sleeve.
I had to smile when I finally found an African violet yesterday. It is not the most perfect specimen in the world: it has one tiny pinkish bloom and the watering it has had looks like it may have been an afterthought. But I can see the possibilities. I have to. I want to. There’s a lamp waiting on my desk at school.
So this, this searching for an African violet reconnects me with a memory that I had forgotten for a long time. The memory of a busy lady taking time for pretty flowers and laughter and friendships…and more, I’m sure of it.