Thanks for the add! Gros bisous :-)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Flowers, love and death

I started writing something about Chrysanthemums 3 days ago, and could not. 23rd October was the anniversary of my mom's death. In fact, she is dead 23 years this year. I miss her everyday, and it makes me sad that I can't even go and put some Chysanthemums on her grave on the Day of the Dead which is celebrated on 2nd November in France.

Chrysanthemums are a very special flower to me. First of all they come in an array of warm colours which woven together look like the most wonderfully rich Indian fabrics.
They also come in different shapes. This one looks like a sea anemone.
This one like an octopus
A feast of patterns fit for any chaos theoretician.

We, as humans, have a special affinity with flowers, so much so that some girls even get the priviledge of being named Violette, Marguerite, Rose, Iris, or Capucine. Sadly, to my knowledge, no one gets called Chrysanthemum. Shame really, since the word Chrysanthemum derives from the Greek, and means "golden flower". In countries like China and Japan, this noble flower is a symbol for happiness, longevity and pleasure. And in Europe, this flower was originally introduced as a symbol of beauty and happiness too.

But in France, after the butchery which was the First World War, one year after the war, the Pointcaré government decided that all French soldiers graves should be decorated on 11th November. The Armistice being celebrated on 11th November, the only ornemental flower still in bloom in French gardens were Chrysanthemums, and because of the proximity of the date with 2nd November, it quickly became customary to go and place Chysanthemums (in French Chrysanthèmes, on relatives graves). Thus, in France this flower intrinsically embodies love and death, since for us it is a way of showing the love we hold in our hearts for our dearly departed. And in a sense, as far as gardens are concerned, you could say that Chrysanthemums were the last casualty of WW1, since they are now very rarely used as ornemental plants in French gardens.
A flower shop, just before la Toussaint (All Souls' Day, and by extension 2nd November, which is when the French go en masse to their relatives cemeteries.
But more than anything, for me Chrysanthemums remind me of my grand father and his enchanted garden. My grand dad was a factory worker who supplemented his income by selling the produce he grew from his garden. And what an amazing garden! One day I will write just about this garden which to me has become somewhat of an obsession. He used to grow all sorts, French beans, potatoes, beetroot, lettuces, carrots, peas, in all their name it. He also grew flowers for the house but also to sell. Chrysanthemums were crucial to his income as he could make much more money on flowers than on vegetables (that he sold to the local shops).

So for "La Toussaint", my grand dad would take orders from people, and he would take me with him, we would load the pots on his wheelbarrow. 
And sometimes if there was some space left I would sit amongst the pots on the wheelbarrow and off we went to the cemetery on Château-Chinon, in order to deliver the pot to Madame or Monsieur such and such's grave. That's the service he  provided. This was great for old people who could no longer walk up to the cemetery to put this token of their love and memory on their cherished ones' graves.
And would you look at the view from the cemetery!
He now lies in this cemetery besides his wife and his mom. Sadly, my mom doesn't share their grave. And once again all I can do this year is mentally go and place some virtual Chrysanthemums on their graves.

But they are not forgotten, how could I forget the man who taught me all I know about picking mushroom, and blackberries, the man who brought me swimming in the river even in the rain, who could kill and skin a rabbit in 30 seconds flat, the man who used to read the newspapers aloud from his armchair for all to hear, the man who cooked the "bad" potatoes in a huge pot over the stove for his rabbits, and if I was very good would let me taste them with a bit of butter and some sea salt, before carrying same pot on same wheelbarrow down to the garden.

I prefer not to talk about my mum or grand mother, but my memories of them are just as sweet, but put it this way I now have a working garden in which I grow things, I own my very own wheelbarrow, and believe you me, if you don't own one, you can never know how useful it can be. In my kitchen there is a large bedroom wardrobe where I keep all my kitchenware, like my grand mother did, and these days, I knit a lot just like my mom, and I am finishing a huge tapestry that she gave me for my 18th birthday and that I never had the time or the inclination to do thus far.

So to all my people, if you are reading from above, I know you don't understand English, I would hope that since you are in Heaven you get to understand everything, and I do know that you can read my heart.


Annushka said...

Fine flowers, same as you)))
I love flowers, it very much decorates life!!!

celine said...

Lovely article, Dany!

Same sweet memories of my grandmother when she gave me wine,water & sugar after running up the hill to visit her! Or the HILARIOUS parties de pouilleux that could never be finished cos she was laughing so much :-) So I am sharing the sadness of not being able to place such a bright & wonderful flower on her grave:( but she's in my heart everyday, so it's ok :)

Danièle said...

Thats right she could not cheat! I remember that too! And yes Annushka flowers have the magic power of making life a lot easier.

Todd Winkels said...

Beautiful article Dani!

Danièle said...

Thanks Todd :-)

Mimi from French Kitchen said...

I'm with Todd. Lovely piece of writing, Daniele.

Our mothers are with us always.

Marta said...

love flowers!

Danièle said...

Thanks for the nice feedback girls :-)

Kitschmoog said...

Nice story with great emotion ... Peace and paradise love for your mother.
Of course, I'm worry because Chrysanthemums were always in associaion with the symbol of death and sadness.