Trilliums and Back Door Friends
She was not readily accepted into my dad's family. They thought her snooty (city girl) and college educated (she was an RN). It didn't matter that she had come from a tiny company town out in the middle of rural obscurity, or that she had entered the school of nursing as a Cadet.
What did seem to matter the most to his family was that dad's three brothers had all married local farm girls. And dad had not. Period.
To complicate things, my dad was the last of my grandma's children to live at home. It was expected of him to remain at home and help her with the family farm. So, mom moved into an unwelcoming world, far from family and friends.
When the first of mom's children was born, she quit working at the hospital--to be a full time mom. Her sense of loneliness and isolation from her own family--who lived over an hour's drive away, must have been nearly overwhelming. But she stood tall (as tall as she could stand at 5' 2" on her tippy toes) beside my dad, learned how to do farm work, and kept having children.
Life took on its own rhythm. We children ran wild and free on the farm. And one of the things that we often did was bring mom bouquets of flowers. It didn't matter the season. Spring to fall, there was some weed or wildflower to carry in for her.
At the end of winter, we watched for the flowers. We knew which ones bloomed in what order. From the catkins of softwoods--we dubbed "pussy willows" even though they weren't, to the violets and tiger lilies (trout lilies) and then finally, the trilliums. We were mom's friends, walking into the house with bouquets that were stuffed into water-filled Mason jars.
Her life was busy...but not so busy that she wouldn't have had time to think about how few friends she had--save for the rare visit from one of her family, or a couple that dad knew--a school teacher from his youth. And dad's life was busy. He worked away from home, and then came home and farmed. He probably wasn't much in the way of companionship in those early years.
Mom raised kids, and did housework and farmwork all day long.
So, springtime one year-- before I was even in school...and the trillium bouquets had begun to appear, we gathered handfuls and brought them home for mom--for her ritual. A few drops of red food coloring in this jar, green in the next, yellow...and then blue in two more jars. It was like my mom was a magician! Our white, three-petaled lilies changed over the course of a couple days. We had pink lilies, and pale yellow, pale green and pale blue lilies
A farm over the hill and just beyond view had recently sold. And dad appeared one day with one of the new owners. His name was Bill, and he sat in our house and visited for a bit after dad had introduced him to mom.
He had a wife, Irene, and a pack of kids--a wee bit smaller than our tribe, but it did qualify as a pack.. No, they weren't farmers, but decided to try their hands at it. With one daughter and the rest sons, they thought it was a good direction to go. No, they weren't from Pennsylvania. They were from Ohio. "Oh, Irene? You should meet her, she knows no one here. She would love to meet you."
When Bill rose to leave, my mom quickly grabbed a bouquet of the food color lilies, and handed it to Bill while saying, "Give this to Irene, from me."
Bill looked over the flowers and then asked, "How do you get colored lilies? Irene and me and have walked our property and only ever saw white ones."
My mom never batted an eye when she replied, "They grow like that, here."
Bill was amazed. He took the jar full of flowers home and gave them to Irene...and told her just what he had been told.
It had opened the door for a friendship to form that lasted most of the following five decades. And over all those five decades, the mention of colored lilies never failed to get a smile for the joke my mom had played on her new neighbor.
In 1975, when I was 15, Bill and Irene had sold the farm and begun living the good life in Florida.
They invited mom and dad to visit, and incredibly, mom decided that we three youngest should go along. I had never been on a vacation, and this was big time. We were going to Florida for a week.
We spent over two days driving there; the winter scenery was beautiful the whole way...but it was a long time in a car.
When we arrived at our destination, anxious to stretch our legs, we piled out and headed for the front door where Bill answered. Then as I stepped into their house, I saw Irene hugging my mom at her "back door."
I never forgot that, but it took me years to understand why they had done it.
Years later, my mom and I were talking one day, and she told me about back-door friends. That's what her and Irene were, they determined. "You know, Teresa, you let company in through the front door--but real friends come in through the back door."
We made several trips to Florida as the years went by--to visit Bill and Irene. My mom never failed to use the back door when we arrived. And Irene never failed to be standing at her back door, waiting to hug my mom.
Odd little ritual...big treasure. Everyone should be so blessed. Everyone should have friends who know what the back of your house looks like--and love you just the same. And everyone should have friends who know what your heart looks like behind your smile that's fit for company. Maybe you call them something different? Kindred spirits, let-down-my-hair friends? Bosom buddies?
No matter the name, there is something beyond joy in the relationship. There is a beauty that runs as deep as our souls. Back door friends.
I hope your life is blessed with them...