December 9, 2014

Mother Gave Me Paper Whites

Mother always gave me paper whites. 

Each December, she would hand me a gift-wrapped pot with bulbs poking out of rocks. It didn’t look like much. I would be depressed by the onset of winter, a time when horizon and ground melded, the dark, drab sky perfectly morphing into the dark, drab concrete; and when the frozen, drab slush would seep into my permeable, drab boots.

This was when I most needed color and nature. And my mom knew it. I would set my paper whites in front of a window and carefully water them. In no time, little white daffodil-like flowers would bloom, filling my house with a sweet jasmine scent.

The days of paper whites ended when I left to live in Israel nine years ago.  I moved into an apartment with a rooftop just last August. Under the scorching Israeli summer sun, the garden was nothing but parched earth and hardy weeds.

My mom, who passed away in November, is gone. I sat shiva for her in Toronto, flew back to Israel and returned feeling empty—until I went up to my rooftop. There I was greeted by hundreds of paper whites glistening in the sun. 

While I was gone, the fall rains and cool nights awoke them, while the sun encouraged them. And now, as I sit beside them, I take in their sweet scent and remember.

Those potted paper whites craning for a speckle of Toronto light have been replaced by hundreds of plants shimmering outside in full sunshine. Each morning, I watch the sun rise over the Shomron, delineating mountain from sky blue. And then I take out my siddur and pray beside these flowers. 

I remember my mother with each sweet breath because she is so much a part of this. 

Mother always gave me paper whites. And she still does.

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