When Maw’s irises bloom, all is well in the world and beyond
It has been 18 years since Mary Elizabeth Spencer Venable left this orb. But his memory comes back to life each spring when the iris burst.
Correction. It is iris, as in the plural. The flowers that my mother cultivated during the day have been fruitful and multiplied. They now occupy the Venerable Ground all over the map.
A panorama of colors is certain – whites, yellows, lavenders and especially her favorite purples. They are still emerging from the soil of South Knox County, from where “Maw” gave them a start so long ago. I will soon be 74 and I have never known a spring without them.
As any gardener will attest, the iris is a hardy plant. Given a foot in half decent dirt, with intermittent sun and an occasional glass of water, it will grow almost anywhere. Even in the rock-hard, nutrient-poor red clay of my childhood home, where Brother Rick still resides.
Periodic thinning of the rhizomes helps the iris to flourish. That is why the offspring from his original plantations remained in the family, even though the family grew and moved away.
Maw’s iris descendants have bloomed in my flower beds (well, technically Mary Ann) for decades, first in a subdivision and then later on the wooded ridge where we now live.
They followed Sister Suzy to Cleveland, Tennessee, and again when she and her husband Tony moved to Fountain City.
Little brother Ronny and his wife Lianne Kressin have them in a pot in their New York apartment.
They are present and counted in the yard of the grandchildren of Maw and their respective tribes.
I suspect that one of these days, after my siblings and I join Maw and Big Sam in the Great Hereafter, they will grow up in the homes of Maw’s great-grandchildren and then their offspring all over the place. line. May the circle be uninterrupted.
These irises never fail to bring Maw back to life.
When they bloom, we hear him laughing.
We hear her stories about being the daughter of a railroad engineer and having happy summers in their boxcar house in the Campbell County backcountry.
We recall his memories of the Great Depression. From “old” Knox High, University of Tennessee and the State of Iowa.
We share his sadness over his own mother’s battle with crippling clinical depression, not to mention his fears during World War II when our father was stationed overseas. The list goes on.
There are a lot of things I don’t understand about eternity. It is the competence of the good Lord, well above my salary. I take faith not to sweat the details.
But wherever paradise is and whatever the experience, I guarantee Maw’s irises spread beauty and brighten up the place every spring.
Sam Venable’s column appears weekly. Contact him at [email protected]