Tags Posts tagged with "Mother’s Day"

Mother’s Day

From the time I was a young girl, I wanted to be a mother. The urge to hold and to love a baby, my baby, was a conscious one. I also had professional ambitions, so in those days, before women expected to be able to do it all, there was a bit of a conflict in my head. Curiously, while I don’t remember telling anyone about my maternal urges, I did mention it on my first date to the man I eventually married. He told me that he too looked forward to having children, so the rest is history.

When I did have my first child, I was quietly terrified. I was the caboose child in my parents’ families, meaning that my parents were older, and everyone in my generation was already born before I came on the scene. There were no babies for me to practice on, I had never given a baby a bottle nor changed a diaper, and I was afraid I was inadvertently going to do some terrible harm to a helpless infant. It wasn’t until the baby’s one-month checkup, when the pediatrician exalted about how his development — size and weight — were “off the charts,” that I began to relax and believe the baby would survive my ignorance.

After that the parenting urge was so fulfilling that we did it twice more in record time. Judging from my friends’ tales of their children, we had it easy with three boys. They were exceedingly energetic but never moody, didn’t hold a grudge for more than three minutes, weren’t particular about what clothes they wore and could be entertained with a generous supply of miniature trucks on rainy, “indoor” days or any ball game on “outside” days. Baseball on our dead end street was their favorite, and I became a pretty good pitcher, if I do say so myself.

They didn’t much like it when I started the first newspaper and was away from the house a great deal. They were all in elementary school by that point and they came to accept the new arrangement, even were infrequently pleased with my new occupation. And since my office was only some five minutes from the house and three minutes from their school, I felt I could get to them quickly if they needed me. I was able to look in on them in the course of each day. In fact, I had more trouble convincing my mother than my
children that it was acceptable to work both inside and outside the home. I just could never understand how all three unfailingly picked friends who lived on the farthest ends of the school district and had to be driven back and forth. That and the constant car pooling for games and music lessons made me grateful that I had learned to drive — not a typical skill among my urban classmates when I was growing up.

I weathered their teenage years as best I could, sometimes marveling that only my children could make me scream (and my mother). At the same time, my husband and I vicariously enjoyed the children’s various successes: academic, musical and athletic. They were blossoming into young adults and we were regularly irritated by them and immensely proud of them.

As the children reached their later teenage years, the family dynamic shifted. My husband was terminally ill, and the children were forced to deal with death. My mother and my father had both passed on by then, and the boys had been deeply touched by their loss, but the death of a parent at a far younger age than expected for either their father or themselves struck me as a cruel trick. Somehow we had not lived up to our part of the parenting contract.

I guess that was when my children started to become my friends. It probably would have happened around that age anyway, but we became allies in the face of adversity. And then life’s wonderful joys unfurled. … They graduated, got jobs, found their loved ones and eventually made me a grandmother. That’s a club one can’t apply to oneself, but having arrived there, I can endlessly sing its praises.

Bottom line: How ultimately satisfying it is for me to be a mom.

The long, scented racemes of Japanese wisteria, W. floribunda, ‘White/Blue Eye’, trained here as a tree, appear before the vine leafs out. Photo by Kyrnan Harvey

By Kyrnan Harvey

Wisterias and lilacs are reliably in flower around the second Sunday in May on Long Island and, being 100 percent deerproof, make wonderful gifts for a mom who loves her garden. 

They are long-lived and durable, which is certainly an understatement regarding wisteria. When I bought my house in East Setauket there was 20 or 30 years of unchecked growth between my house and a neighbor’s that was serving as a de facto privacy barrier: Oriental bittersweet, English ivy, Russian olive and natives poison ivy and greenbrier that were choking to near death a pair of American dogwoods and a few native spicebushes (Lindera benzoin). There was wisteria too, clambering all over the dead limbs of a fallen spruce. 

My neighbor bemoaned the invasiveness of the wisteria, which was running along the ground, rooting in and climbing her Chinese dogwoods, an old beautybush (Kolkwitzia) and her giant old weeping cherry tree. I agreed that it is awfully invasive but that I would not remove it, valuing as I do the beauty and delightful scent of its flowers. I cut any vines that were not supported by the dead fallen spruce and initiated a war on the other nonnative invasives, preserving the dogwoods and clearing the way for my wife’s cut-flower/kitchen garden, and, yes, diminishing the privacy between our houses. 

Yes, wisteria is horribly invasive, but sometimes it is worth leaving to climb into weed trees or over a chain-link fence, in which case you will want to be vigilant with the secateurs and folding pruning saw. If you have a pergola, the posts and beams of which are tall enough and strong enough, and you want a vine to grow over it, then wisteria is certainly at the top of the list of options. Consider well though the commitment of maintenance, which is to climb a ladder and cut-cut-cut the endless yards of rampant new growth all summer after flowering in May.

I have been planting wisterias since I started gardening 30 years ago. One of the first mistakes I made was buying a young (two- or three-year-old), unnamed, Chinese wisteria (Wisteria sinensis). I trained it to grow as a standard (tree form), but it was years before it flowered and, when it did, the flowers appeared simultaneously with the leaves, which partially obscured the flowers. 

After 15 years of cut-cut-cut atop a step-ladder summer after summer, I asked Joe, my assistant, to cut it down. I couldn’t do it myself but I was ready with a superior replacement: a grafted tree form, Wisteria floribunda, ‘Shiro-noda’ (Snow Showers), in a 15-gallon container. For the next 10 years this was an absolute highlight of the gardening year, the very long fragrant white racemes appearing before the “tree” leafed out and with forget-me-nots and tulips below and a tree peony nearby. 

If you want to buy a wisteria, seek a named cultivar of the Chinese (W. sinensis) or Japanese (W. floribunda) variety. Unless you want to grow it up a pergola, see if you can find one trained on a single trunk. It will always need support, as the physiology of the trunk is that of a vine, needing support to climb, and not that of a self-supporting tree. Grow it as a tree and curtail its growth. If you plant a grafted wisteria, you won’t have to wait years for it to start flowering. And I very much prefer varieties that flower before leafing out.

If wisteria sounds like too much of an undertaking and commitment, there is the option of a lilac (Syringa) for mother. These are nearly carefree, of equally delightful scent and the topic of my next gardening column. 

 Kyrnan Harvey is a horticulturist and garden designer residing in East Setauket. For more information, visit www.boskygarden.com.

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On the eve of this year’s Mother’s Day, I have a question to ask you. Do you ever think of your parents as people? Sounds like an odd question, but I mean thinking about them in terms of the times they live through, their private satisfactions, their fears and phobias, the experiences that mold them and so forth. We know the facts they choose to tell us about their lives but not their deepest thoughts and feelings.

We can’t ever really know them, even though we grow up in their home. Most of us consider them as loving to us, making our lives comfortable, caring for us when we are sick, instructing us how to behave, making our favorite birthday dinners. But there is more to their existence than their interactions with us.

I sat down to try and picture myself in their shoes.

I know that my father met my mother when he accompanied his older brother to the home of his brother’s fiancée for the first time. There, coming down the stairs in a red dress, was the sister of the fiancée, my mother. To hear my father tell it, he was struck instantly and forever by Cupid’s arrow. Although he was only 15, the sight of her took his breath away. So we know what my father was feeling, but how about her? Did she catch sight of him and feel the same overpowering love at first sight? Was she coming downstairs merely out of curiosity to meet her older sister’s intended, then to slip away for the afternoon with her friends? Did she have nervous or polite conversation with my father? What did they talk about? By the time she was 15 and he was 17, he had persuaded her to get married during her lunch hour in Manhattan’s City Hall. They prevailed upon two men in a nearby barbershop to be their witnesses and to swear that they were both of age. They then returned to work and to their separate homes that night.

My father was triumphant, I know, because he told us so, for now he had the love of his life as his own. Did he have any idea what that meant? You know, the stuff about making a home, supporting and caring for a wife? And my mother, my always and eminently practical mother? How had he convinced her to do this without telling her parents, her brothers and sisters, especially her older sister with whom she was dearly close? Hard as it is for me to picture, she must have been wildly in love.

Theirs was a youthful marriage that worked. They were seldom apart, only during the workday, and they eagerly reunited in the evenings. I could sense the quickening of her breath as we heard his key in the front door. And they began their nightly nonstop conversations as he entered the apartment. My sister and I fell asleep each night to the hum of their voices coming from the kitchen.

My dad was born in 1904, my mother in 1906, so they had both lived through World War I. My dad was lucky to be too young for the draft, but how did he feel seeing his older brothers marching off to war? And my mother? Was she worried about the fate of her older brother? I never asked them.

My parents decided everything together. My mother was more assertive about her opinions, but if my father didn’t agree she would back off. And while he seldom disagreed with her, when he did he was not reticent to let her know. They lived through the Great Depression, but I don’t know if they worried about money or job security. Were they afraid? There was no unemployment or health insurance then. Did they have nightmares about standing on breadlines? I never asked.

I do know that by 1939 they started their first business with all the life savings they had managed to scrape together. Then came Pearl Harbor and World War II. Once again my father was saved, being just beyond draft age. Did they feel threatened by the attack and the war? What were their thoughts and feelings? How did they cope with the stress? I came along then, but at no time in their lives did I think to ask.

Now, of course, it is too late.

Couple and young twins uninjured

Firefighters spray water to put out a blaze that engulfed a Cordell Place home in East Northport early Sunday morning. Photo by Steve Silverman
Firefighters work hard to put out a blaze that engulfed a Cordell Place home in East Northport early Sunday morning. Photo by Steve Silverman
Firefighters work hard to put out a blaze that engulfed a Cordell Place home in East Northport early Sunday morning. Photo by Steve Silverman

An East Northport couple and their four-month old boy-and-girl twins escaped unharmed after their home went up in flames on Sunday morning.

The East Northport Fire Department responded to the Cordell Place blaze on Mother’s Day at about 10 a.m. and found the attached garage of a single-family home engulfed in flames, according to a press release from Steve Silverman, public information officer for the Town of Huntington Fire Chiefs Council.

Three propane tanks outside the garage ignited and fueled the fire that spread to the kitchen and living room.

Firefighters check the roof of a Cordell Place home in East Northport early Sunday morning after a fire destroyed the garage and living room. Photo by Steve Silverman
Firefighters check the roof of a Cordell Place home in East Northport early Sunday morning after a fire destroyed the garage and living room. Photo by Steve Silverman

More than 50 firefighters from East Northport, Commack and Kings Park fire departments and seven trucks worked to get the fire under control within 20 minutes, led by East Northport Chief Wayne Kaifler Jr. and First Assistant Chief Dan Heffernan. The East Northport Rescue Squad had three ambulances and paramedic unit on the scene for EMS support.

The garage, living room and kitchen were destroyed. and the rest of the home sustained smoke damage.

The Suffolk County Police Arson Squad and Huntington Town fire marshal are investigating the fire, according to the press release.