I never met Marjorie Holmes, but she has been a part of my life for the past 16 years, at least. By my bed nestled between the pages of a book a little piece of her is tucked. Wrinkled now from time after time of being folded and unfolded. I almost know her by heart.
Not her face or the sound of her voice. Her words.
Words of a mother. Words to read quietly or out loud. Words to pray. Long ago, after the birth of our first child, her words guided me to pray for good roots.
Help me to give my children good roots, God.
As I work with my plants I can see that the sturdiest, and those which bear most freely, are those whose roots go deep, gripping rich soil; they have a base from which they can grow tall and beautiful and sound.
Let this household furnish that kind of soil for my family, God. Enriched with good music, good books, good talk, good taste. But above all, goodness of spirit. Goodness of action.
So that those who come here feel welcome, and those who leave here feel warm. And those who live here know, in every fiber of their beings, that they belong to people who, for all our faults, are good people. People of decency and honor, who would not willing hurt or cheat any living thing.
Let my children grow freely, God, in whatever direction their nature directs. But give them root strength, too. So that they will never deviate too far from their own beginnings.
Help me give my children good roots.
I remember when I found those words. Not the day or the time or what I was wearing, but the feeling I was having. I wasn’t sure I was doing it right - being a mother. It was hard. No one tells you how hard it’s going to be. How much you will worry. How much you will cry. How much you will feel stressed and unsure and frustrated.
They try, but no one can tell you just how much.
How much you will laugh. How much you will smile until your face hurts. How much you will shine inside so brightly you think you will burst from pride. How much you are loved. How much you are capable of loving.
Still, I wasn’t sure I was any good at it. And as our son slept I thumbed through the pages of a book I had on my bedside table. And there they were. Marjorie Holmes’ words.
The first time I read them, I worried. No matter how hard I tried, how hard I paid attention,
how much I held my mouth right, I couldn’t keep plants. The pots in the backyard were sad reminders of just how many houseplants I’d destroyed. It wasn’t pretty. Surely this wasn’t the prayer for me, talking about growing plants that thrive and grow tall and sturdy and beautiful. Surely, God had seen my pitiful ferns gasping for dear life no matter how much I watered them and talked to them and bathed them in sunshine. Surely.
I remember when I changed my mind. Not the day or the time or what I was wearing, but the way I felt when I was in the back yard playing with our children, watching one run through the sprinkler and the other toddle behind him. I was sitting on the grass trying not to get wet when I looked over at the row of pots set back against the house, the ones once home to thriving houseplants that, no matter how hard I had tried, had wilted away. I noticed green. There, growing out of a thrown away pot was a sprig of fern. It was small, but it was strong. Poking up from the tossed away dirt and tangle of brown leaves, it was there. It had come back. Because it had strong roots.
I learned a little something that day sitting on the edge of the sprinkler watching our children play. As a mother, I will make mistakes. Lots of them. I won’t always do everything right. No matter how hard I try, how hard I pay attention, how I hold my mouth, I won’t always do things right.
But if our children have something strong to hold on to – decency and honor, goodness of spirit - no matter what direction nature directs, they will always come back to their beginning. Because they have strong roots.
Email columnist mandy Flynn at firstname.lastname@example.org.