In Memory of my Grandma

In honor of my daughter’s upcoming dance recital, I would like to share with you an excerpt from a sermon I delivered a few weeks ago, in memory of my Grandma and my own dance recitals.

From “In Praise of Weeds”

I have two favorite flowers. One is the Peony. The reason for this isn’t exactly because I think it is the most beautiful flower, or the most fragrant. It is because of my memories surrounding it. You see, my Grandma Sophie grew a beautiful garden. It was simply amazing. My grandma loved that garden fiercely. She spent hours and hours each day pruning her plants and picking her vegetables, and then cooking with the vegetables she harvested. Her life essentially revolved around this garden. Another thing she loved fiercely was her family. She never hid her pride in my accomplishments. My grandma never missed a school event, a vacation, and most importantly, a dance performance.

Now, to say I danced a lot as a child is an understatement. I performed numerous times a year, and danced in competitions nearly every weekend throughout the winter, followed by national championships over the summer. My grandma never missed a performance. Not a single one.

For the big performances, the recitals, she would bring me flowers. White peonies from her garden. As a child, I wasn’t appreciative of this. After every recital, I watched all of my friends receive store bought bouquets from their families. Perfect flowers, wrapped in tissue paper and cellophane. My flowers, they didn’t look like that. They were different. Instead of colorful tissue paper and sparkly cellophane, they came wrapped in a wet paper towel covered in aluminum foil. And I was jealous. Envious. I never said anything to my grandma, but – I wanted store bought flowers. Like my friends. Perfect flowers.

Every year, I was jealous of these flowers, until a dance recital when I was about twelve years old. On that day, my grandma, my independent, strong willed grandma, was ill. Her headache was so bad that she didn’t think she could drive, but she wasn’t willing to miss the recital. So, my mom and I piled into the car to go pick her up. After the twenty minute trip, we pulled into her driveway, and I caught sight of her. Sick, feeling so ill that she couldn’t drive, yet – out in her garden. On her knees, crawling around in the flowers. When I got out of the car, she called to me she would be ready in a minute, she was just comparing. In her hands, she was holding peonies next to each other. Painstakingly choosing the perfect ones. The biggest ones, the ones with petals that weren’t bothered by bugs. And my mother whispered to me that this was what my grandmother had done for every dance recital. Every year, in scorching late June temperatures, my grandma crawled through her beautiful garden, painstakingly choosing the biggest, most beautiful flowers, her prized work, to proudly present to me after my recital.

Suddenly, cellophane and tissue paper around store bought flowers didn’t matter at all. Suddenly, my garden grown flowers, wrapped in wet paper towels and aluminum foil, were the most beautiful flowers I had ever seen. And I received those flowers with pride and love, well into my college years. Even now, when I smell something peony scented, I feel my grandmothers love. White peonies hold a special place in my heart.

Though I won’t bore you with the rest of my sermon, I will say that my other favorite flower is a dandelion. There is a huge difference between a dandelion and a peony, huh? Well, the dandelion holds just as special a place in my heart, for many of the same reasons the peony does.  There is nothing more beautiful than a child crawling on their hands and knees, comparing – painstakingly choosing the perfect yellow bloom to proudly present to someone they love….

Dandelions and peonies…..maybe not so huge a difference. After all, weeds are simply flowers we have yet to discover the virtues of.  Flowers that haven’t followed the rules, and sprouted in the wrong place.



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