One Million Daisies

For my mother.

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ILLUSTRATIONS BY HEATHER GRAHAM
mother kisses her child in field of daisies

A million daisies have invaded my mother’s garden. They grow rampant among the phlox and delphinium, the lilies and the roses. She doesn’t want their scraggly disorder in her picture-perfect beds, but she cannot stand to kill anything, especially a flower. In her stronger—or weaker—moments she attempts to eradicate them, but they always fi nd their way back into her garden. Into her heart.

On this early morning of my summer visit, while my mother sleeps, I am deadheading these daisies—a million times a million of them, it seems—and thinking of her. At 86, she is still sturdy, and stalwart—and stubborn, at times. She wants the fl owers but not their mess, so I must tread carefully in her beloved garden.

My mother doesn’t expect this fussiness. Somehow, without reason, I expect it for her.

I hate this job. Capture a dead bloom, separate it from its confederates, and follow its stem down several inches (so the stub won’t show), taking care not to cut too many leaves and deplete the plant. Then snip, toss the stem into the refuse bin, fi nd another, an start again. I mustn’t falter in my attention and sacrifice a live bloom.

Snip, snip, snip. I must have cut ten thousand at least. I look the length of the garden at the multitudes remaining. After half an hour, the beauty of the early morning no longer compensates for my aching back. I stand. She doesn’t need all these, I think. Why not just pull half out by their roots? Or cut the old heads by the fistful, rather than singly? No one would notice from a few feet away.

But I know I won’t, and I wonder why. My mother doesn’t expect this fussiness. Somehow, without reason, I expect it for her, knowing how she loves every petal and leaf. Just as she loved her children, I suddenly reflect: perfectly, proudly, with attention to every detail, every emotion, every need. In spite of our flaws. I am struck by the thought: If my mother didn’t love daisies, would she have loved me so well?

Back on my knees, I recall the lunches packed, the clothes sewed, the hair curled, the ruffles ironed. I think of the eons of advice, of comfort, of concern. I snip and I count. Snip and count.

The morning passes. A million daisies may not be enough.


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