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Nora Swango Stanger: April showers bring May flowers

As I write this, the sky is covered with thick gray clouds.

I thought gray clouds were only for winter, so it’s a bit disconcerting. Then I remember the little sayings I learned in elementary school.

Each month, the teachers would change the bulletin boards to depict the season, always outlining the board with colored, corrugated trim.

The board for March featured a cutout of a large cloud tinged in blue. The cloud had a face with puffed out cheeks full of air and a round mouth, blowing swirly lines indicating fierce winds.

Near the cloud was a bright-colored kite with a long tail flowing in the wind. April’s bulletin board presented a large umbrella with blue raindrops and the words, “April showers bring May flowers.” You can guess what May’s bulletin board included.

This is the time of year that teachers use Mother’s Day preparations to teach the science of seeds turning into beautiful plants. I remember, in fifth grade, we were each given a spongy cube of a thing that we were told was full of the necessary nutrients for seeds to germinate.

We were taught all about the importance of having just the right amount of water and sunlight in order for the miraculous transformation of a tiny, simple seed into its pre-designed plant.

Mr. Arrington gave us each a small seed to put into the spongy cube. We placed the cube in a cup, watered it and sat it in the window sill to wait for the magic to happen. Each day, we would check for progress, assuring the spongy thing was moist, but not drowning. We were excited as the little green sprout began to show. By the time Mother’s Day came, we each had a four-inch Black Locust tree to give to Mom!

I thought my heart would burst with pride when Mom decided to plant my baby tree in the yard. She made a mound of dirt all around it and cleared away any other plants that might fight for its territory. I watched it grow over the weeks and months until it no longer needed my supervision to become the trusty tree it was meant to be.

My mother was a natural when it came to growing things. The old log house we lived in butted right up next to a steep hill. The side of the hill was covered with limestone rocks jutting out here and there. Some of the rocks were huge but some were just like little stepping stones against the thin soil. To be honest, the house was downright ugly, but Mom did everything in her power to bring beauty to our world. She envisioned that the hillside would one day be a beautiful rock garden. And so another adventure with Mom began.

With an artist’s touch, Mom cleared the rocks and soil of weeds and other debris. She carefully explored each inch of her new canvas and planned out which plants would best thrive in which area.

There were beautiful carpets of white, blue and fuchsia phlox. There were snapdragons, yellow crocus, daffodils and tulips of every color. She placed foxgloves and irises around the edges. By the time she finished, Mom had created a spectacular child’s fairy-like dream out of rocks on a hillside.

Whenever we wanted to find Mom during those days, all we needed to do was look at the rock garden. She would either be sitting on one of the rocks nurturing her flowers or standing in front of it, soaking in the beauty.

Recently, I drove into White Hollow just to revisit my little-girl memories. The house and old well are long gone. Someone else gets to live on that precious piece of heaven now.

But I saw the same ancient rocks jutting out from the hillside. And to my amazement, my Black Locust tree, planted 50 years, ago is standing as firm.

Once again, my heart swelled, not from pride, but from the memories of the place that raised me.

 

Nora Swango Stanger, a Lawrence County native and Appalachian outreach coordinator for Sinclair Community College, can be reached at norastanger@gmail.com.