For those of you who have read this blog for a while, you will certainly find the “refrain” of this essay familiar. For the past seventeen years, since the passing of my grandmother (MaMa) in 1998, I have been thinking, speaking, and writing a lot about this topic of “Legacy.” MaMa and the original “legacy story” that I captured in a previous essay, “The Turkey Bag”, inspired this blog, titled “Find Your Legacy”. To see more essays on the concept of “Legacy,” look under the blog archive to the left of this site’s homepage and look under “Topics.”
As we dive into spring here in Atlanta, I turn my attention to the garden. We have a lovely flower garden, and a small but hearty vegetable garden at our home, and every spring the garden comes to life with the colors of tulips, irises, azaleas, and roses. Additionally I start from seed tomatoes for my garden, working to have them ready to go into the vegetable bed by mid to late April, after the last frost date for our area. This year, I have started two separate heirloom tomato varietals, both strongly connected to my past. One of the varieties we call “Mama’s old stripers,” an old yellow tomato varietal that my grandmother raised for decades, and handed down through our family. The second varietal I call “Mrs. Carfang’s Big Pinks.” This is an old pink tomato varietal that puts off huge fruit that I will highlight in a future essay.
In my family we always associate gardens and gardening with MaMa. She kept a large vegetable garden well into her 90’s, raising and caning a wide variety of vegetables across the growing season. I distinctly remember taking a case of her canned pole beans with me when I went off to graduate school at Vanderbilt. Thus it is no surprise that I have been thinking a lot about her this week as I went to plant seven of her “old stripers” into my garden. What did strike me this year as unique was the timely flowering of an African violet.
This past fall, my brother passed along a few plant cuttings and a small violet that he had started in his home in Virginia. The violet had a very unusual past, since he not only started it from a cutting of a violet that MaMa had raised, in her home in West Virginia, but that the original flower had been given to MaMa by my mother, sometime before her death, as a housewarming gift from some long ago visit. It really struck me to think that my mother, who passed away so young back in 1974, had brought this exact plant to my grandmother as a gift more than forty years ago!
Sometimes it’s easy to think about the idea of “Legacy” somewhat nostalgically, fondly reminiscing of some gently remembered past. The flowering of the violet and the young tomato seedlings being ready to plant are both reminders to me that the concept of “Legacy” is a current, present tense active moment of engagement. In some crazy way they are triggers for me to not only think back on these two, very important women in my past, but to consider how I am taking action in my life today, inspired by their “legacies.” It forces me to consider how I am spending my time, day to day, in an often overly scheduled frenetic life. What impact am I having on my kids, Bryson named after MaMa’s father and Marie named after my mother, Arline Marie Wark.
As you look at the photo below of the blooming Violet and the young tomato seedlings, think about the people from your past and how they have had an impact on you. Think about what “Legacies” they have left with you AND consider what “Legacies” you are “planting” in those around you every day.
For those readers in the Northern Hemisphere, enjoy the blooming of spring wherever you are!