Memories Made from Flowers

As a child growing up in rural Texas, I had two grandmothers as influencers; “Big Granny” and “Little Granny.”  They were as different their descriptive nicknames.  But they had one thing in common, and that was their love of flowers.

Big Granny was stern and formal. I don’t recall her ever talking much…at least not to me. I was terrified of her. Her and her scary dog, too. She had a bad case of “resting bitch face” (no doubt where I inherited mine) so you could never tell whether or not to approach, because she rarely appeared to be smiling. I gave her a wide berth. However I was fascinated by her flower garden. As I recall, it was well maintained with neatly pruned rose bushes and tall stalks of gladiolas and snapdragons. She wore one of those big, starched wide brimmed prairie sun bonnets when she gardened. And gloves to protect her gnarled hands from the thorns. Though I can’t help but wonder what protection the roses had in return, as their big, broad, pale blooms drooped and dropped their short life across her kitchen table.







Little Granny, on the other hand, was soft and squeezable. Her facial features were rounded, her cheeks rosy, like a female version of Santa Claus. Her skin was soft and dewy, but speckled with age spots. When I look at my own skin now, my once Coppertone tan dispersing into old people’s freckles, I think of Little Granny’s cheeks polka dotted with age spots.

Our favorite thing to do together was have “hot tea,” made from her iron-rich well water, Nestea, and Coffeemate creamer, drank from her pale green jadeite mugs, their hairline cracks stained from years of use more telling than tea leaves. After tea, we would sit out in her enclosed back porch while she would commence sewing at her machine. I’d watch while the fabric flew beneath the presser foot, the makings of my new dress for the first day of school, chiffon for my piano recital, or my first flared-leg, plaid 70’s pantsuit to wear when girls were finally allowed to wear pants to school. Granny’s sunny back porch was a safe haven throughout my life.







While Big Granny’s flower garden was tidy and formal, Little Granny had a back yard filled with wildflowers. A sea of blue in the spring, covered in a magic carpet of Texas bluebonnets. It was thick and beautiful to observe, but a little risky to penetrate. There could be snakes, for heaven sakes!  But the reward of standing in the midst of that field of faintly fragrant bluebonnets, punctuated by the taller orange Indian paintbrush was a reward worth the risk.

When the bluebonnets weren’t blooming, there were pungently spicy white, pink, and magenta phlox, buttercups, and my personal favorite, lantana. Each small bloom made up of a dozen “florets” in yellow, orange, pink and lilac made the perfect miniature flowers to decorate my mud pies made from the red sandy, loamy soil beneath the giant catawba tree in Granny’s back yard.








Flowers have always been my most favored accessory in life, for the fragrance as much as the beauty. The spicy scent of a carnation will immediately take me back to wrist corsages worn as Flower Girl, or later Duchess to the King and Queen in that un-airconditioned gymnasium for our small town May Fete. The heady, overpowering, almost nauseating sweetness of the Rubrum Lilies weighing heavily in my hands as a bouquet on a reluctant wedding day. That musty smell of dried flowers from both my grandmothers graves, pressed flat between yellowing pages of a hard back book. And to this day, I carry one dried white rose which hangs over the door of the Winnie, plucked as a last memento before my dear brother’s casket was lowered into the ground. Yes, flowers decorate my deepest memories.

Flowers have also decorated my bucket list over the years. I longed to walk through fields of lavender, something I got to do in 2014 during the Sequim Lavender Festival, intoxicated by the clean, crisp lemony aroma mixing with the salty sea breeze. Still on the list are the tulip fields of Amsterdam. I’ll get there one day.








But cultivated flowers aside, what really thrills me is a disorderly, chaotic, wildly untamed field of wildflowers. It takes me back to five years old, weighing the risk versus reward of wading out to immerse myself in a field of Texas bluebonnets in Little Granny’s back yard. Whereas man has had a hand in cultivated flowers, wildflowers are all Mother Nature’s doing. One hundred percent organic. Natural, untamed, tenacious and spontaneous. Wild and free. Like in Little Granny’s back yard.  Like I aspire to be.








22 thoughts on “Memories Made from Flowers

  1. Ain’t grannies grand? Mine were all strong, tough women who loved their grand kids in totally different ways. Ways that taught us how to be human beings.

    • Allen, I loved your story in a previous comment of your grandmother, Hannah. A tough woman indeed! Hope you and Deede are doing well!

  2. Suzanne: You have the classiest bog on the Internet. I always wait with excietment for your next issue. I really loved seing the Sante Fe Opera House and wish I had been there. Today’s opening picture of you(?) on the tip of the rock deserves an award. Thanks for making life so great.,

  3. Your blogs are always well thought out and expressed, but just WOW! This one really touches the heart, I feel we all now know a bit of your special grandmothers. Thanks so much for the post, the time and effort it took to share it make it all the more special!

  4. I loved this post….sweet reminders of my own Grannie. And thank you again for the beautiful photos. I shared your Santa Fe Opera post with my friend, Sally, who lives in Albuquerque…thinking that surely she had been there. But she hadn’t and we submitted a reservation request for next August! I guess you’ve inspired me more than once!

  5. So many blogs, so few like this one. Something worth reading, thoughtful and full of memories of my own triggered by yours. Thanks, Suzanne. You know you are one in a million. And where oh where are those lakes? I know we must have seen them in the past and you probably labeled them…maybe Colorado hiking with Mark?

  6. Everyday I try to learn something new. Today, I opened my Feedly app and read your latest post. And right there in the 8th sentence is a new term that I had never heard before – “resting bitch face”. You’re a good writer, Suzanne and I figure this is another example of your clever way of piecing together words. But out of curiosity, I typed the words into Google.

    And low and behold, resting bitch face or RBF is a condition that began being discussed in 2013. Several articles have been written about it. Scientists have studied it. It has its own Wikipedia page. I learn that actress Kristen Stewart is the poster girl for RBF. The Queen has bad case of it. It’s not just a female thing. It even affects guys like Kanye West . The good news is that scientists have identified what causes it and have a cure. Here’s a link for more info.

    I’m not sure I’ll ever use this new-to-me term to describe someone, but now I have a new piece of trivia that explains why the Queen looks the way she does.

    Oh, nice flower pics!

  7. I hadn’t heard of “RBF” either, but thanks to your post (and J Dawg) now I know! It’s hard to get enough of that lovely Colorado scenery.

  8. Nice post.
    I know that trail 🙂 We were there in mid-August and there were still lots of flowers.
    Isn’t it strange how one day we just turn into our grandmothers?

  9. Thank you! My favourite photo of myself as a child captured me in my Grandma’s garden, holding a freshly-cut bouquet. She was English and raised in South Africa. Her garden in Berkeley had loose, unstuffy beds with fruit trees to make jellies every year. Gardens and flowers are to be treasured!

  10. How lucky are you to have grown up with two grandmothers and have such clear memories. In your last post I neglected to say how beautiful I thought the flower pictures were and these also. This must be a hike you took and what a wonder to see not only the gorgeous wild flowers but also that amazing blue water and majestic mountain surrounds. Where ever are you in, I assume,Colorado?

  11. “Compelling”…”evocative”…”heartfelt”…words which come to mind when trying to decipher for myself how this particular blog post resonated with me. What an amazing gift you have to concurrently provide the reader with memories of your youth while eliciting memories of the reader’s childhood as well. I was walking in my Nana’s garden…and my Grandma’s garden, too! The sights, the smells, Nana’s voice softly calling me her “sweet little lamb”. Remembering, with longing, two angels who loved me gently in a far away past. Thank you, Suzanne, for another beautiful thought provoking post. 🙂

  12. I had never heard of the RBF affliction….. made me LOL. Loved all of the flower photos and the reminiscing of your Grandmothers. Evocative writing…. keep on blogging! -Maureen

  13. I was going to say forget the flowers, and bring me more granny stories! But then you veered off into other flower-inspired memories, and it made the post all the more poignant. I wrote a post sometime this past spring about taking a drive from my new-ish home here in Texas to see the bluebonnets. It was a heavenly day, and it ended with my plopping my sweet old dog in the flowers for a few pics as I knew her days here in her new state were numbered. It was only a few weeks later that we had to say our sad goodbye, so bluebonnets will always have another kind of blue in them for me now.

  14. I had to smile when I read your description of your stern grandmother as I immediately pictured mine who always looked crabby. I think I was in my early teens when she died but those are my memories of her.

    Beautiful pictures of the flowers and I love the color of those lakes!

  15. This post most likely evoked some strong memories for all your readers. Although sights and sounds elicit great memories, I still think the sense of smell may evoke some of the most powerful memories.

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