When I was just a tiny girl, my Dad took me everywhere. Even though it was the early 1960's, Daddy didn't care. He took me to the auto parts store, the lumber yard, the hardware store. We went to the grocery store while Mommy got her hair done - to surprise her with a trunk full of groceries!
I was Daddy's little shadow, and everywhere we went, he taught me something. At the lumber yard I learned about plywood, veneers, hardwoods, fruitwoods, and the bright yellow of freshly sawn pine. At the auto parts store I saw shiny pistons, rolls of cork to make gaskets, bright round headlights and soft, fuzzy seat covers. At the grocery store I watched Daddy pick out the best fruits and vegetables, and check over the eggs just like the housewives that swarmed the Kroger on Saturday afternoons. When we were at the hardware store Daddy showed me bright silvery nails, and funny little wing nuts. There were tools, too: hammers, saws, screwdrivers, and levels.
In Daddy's world, little girls could (and did) learn anything they wanted to. He also believed that girls (and women) should have a basic knowledge of "how the world worked". This meant not just being able to tell the difference between a crescent wrench and a pipe wrench, but also being able to apply that knowledge when necessary. Of course, when my little brother came along, he became another student in Daddy's impromtu school - and Daddy loved nothing more than to spend an entire Saturday showing us anything and everything out and about in the world. Daddy was endlessly fascinated with all things mechanical, and he could repair or rebuild most anything, it seemed.
The one thing that Daddy had trouble with was finding a "suitable" present for my Mom. He loved her so much, and he wanted every present he bought for her to be as perfect as it could be. Early in my childhood, he discovered that I had a gift for finding just the right gift for Mommy. Once I learned how to keep a secret (there were a couple of birthdays, and one rather memorable Christmas where I spilled the beans) I was Daddy's Little Helper whenever he wanted to give Mommy a present.
I knew which perfume she would like. Which scarf she had admired the week before. Which bracelet would make her eyes light up. I knew instinctively which flowers, which chocolates, which greeting card would make her happiest. Whether it was denim or diamonds, Daddy knew I could pick out just the thing to make Mommy happy.
When I went away to college, Daddy had a dilemna; suddenly he was without his Helper. Over the years, I had equipped him with a laundry list of sorts for emergancies, and he had learned Mom's favorite perfume, he knew what box of chocolates to buy, and what her favorite flowers were.
And my Mom loves flowers. Flowers of all kinds, but she has always had a soft spot for African Violets. I grew up surrounded by little cheerful pots of them; their funny, fuzzy leaves, and the tiny colorful blossoms were as much a part of my childhood landscape as the backyard swingset. Our home and gardens were filled was plants and flowers; Mama had the greenest thumb of anyone I knew.
Until Daddy died.
For a while, Mom just lost interest in living. The Wrench and I were terrified that we were going to lose her, too. The house grew dusty and disorganized, and her plants began to die. Including her violets.
The Wrench and I did what we could, and we kept the front yard up, and I managed to keep a couple of the sturdier houseplants from failing completely, but it was too late for the violets.
When Mom met That Guy Formerly Known as The Stepdad, she began to act like her old self again; the house was clean and tidy, the yard neat and watered. The handful of houseplants that had survived the depression began to thrive again under her care.
But she never got any more violets, never seemed to have any interest in them.
Until she came home.
Hope springs eternal.