Because of a very special raspberry plant.
About 6 years ago, my stepmother (and only surviving parent) Bonnie gave me a start from the row of raspberry bushes growing happily in her front yard in east Multnomah County, Oregon. Her raspberry patch came from a start that she had transplanted from the house where I grew up a few miles away.
So I toted that slender young start in a plastic bag on the train back home to Seattle and dumped it in a big pot, for lack of a decent spot in my little yard. I thought it wasn't going to survive since it was so droopy, but Bonnie told me to keep watering, and within a couple days it perked up.
Raspberries, after all, flourish in our temperate climate west of the Cascade Mountains here in the Pacific Northwest. I grew up picking raspberries for local farmers to earn money for summer camp. Fresh-picked berries were a summer highlight in our home, a special treat served over homemade ice cream, heaped atop bowls of cold cereal with milk, or eaten naked and unadorned in their sweet sun-kissed splendor.
Bonnie loved her berries as much as any of us, and from her years growing up on a farm in Troutdale, she was blessed with a green thumb and instinctive wisdom about how to keep plants happy and thriving. And, as it turned out, she knew how to keep me happy and thriving, bringing stability and a mother's touch to our family sorely in need of such.
You see, I unexpectedly lost my mother just a month after I turned five. My father was left a widower with five children between 5 and 16 and an all-consuming newspaper business to run. While he loved us kids to bits, he was overextended, and for the next 6 years I was tended to by my older siblings, kindly teachers, other neighborhood moms, a few of my father's employees, hired housekeepers, camp counselors, and I'm sure others I don't recall. It was not ideal, but it was my childhood.
After a few years of mourning and then dating several women, my father hit the jackpot when he married Bonnie when I was 11. Life became much nicer in ways I hadn't known I was missing, and I was blessed through the rest of my youth with a father and a mother in a loving home. And lots of fresh berries each summer.
With Bonnie's mind slipping away more rapidly in the last year after a long life well-lived, I suddenly felt a sense of urgency to do right by that raspberry plant. I recently looked at it, struggling to spread beyond the confines of that old pot, and knew I had to give it a better home where it could thrive.
Just like Bonnie would.
Despite my carelessness, that plant has grown and given me sweet fruit for several years now. (All the photos in this post are of and from that plant.) So about a month ago I hired a friend to help me install a raised bed in my front yard. I called a garden expert for advice about how to carefully transplant raspberries.
I'm pleased to tell you that the raspberry plant is very happy in its new, bigger digs. Just look at that sweet little shoot coming up (pictured below). Since I took that shot a couple weeks ago, more shoots are coming up and spreading their feet.
I'll tell Bonnie about it, and she'll be thrilled, although she won't remember after a few minutes. But she'll be equally thrilled when I tell her again.
My hope is to share starts from this plant with the next generation of my family so its fruit continues to provide a sweet burst of summer for years to come. And, hopefully, an enduring connection to their grandma and auntie.
Happy Mother's Day to all you mothers, future mothers, mothers come and gone, and anyone who loves their mother, living or alive in your hearts.
And as always, I'd love to hear what you have to say on the topic of moms, gardens, raspberries, love, and life or anything else that this blog prompts you to think about. Just leave a comment below, and you'll make my week. :) Thanks!