But these hydrangeas just keep giving. In the dark and cold and thirty degrees below zero wind chills, they give life.
The shrub feeds a pair of cardinals and other birds. It gives them a bit of shelter to hide from the wind... a bit of comfort in a sometimes frigid world. The birds are joyful about it, too. They fluff about and huddle deep in the branches, their clear songs ring out, breaking the silence of snow.
Hydrangeas remind me of my grandmother. She is gone now, but the seeds she planted and the memories she left still remain. They warm my heart on the cold days, reminding me that I was loved. The teeny tiny, gentle woman wore pastel and liked flowers and wrapped her fluffy hair in toilet paper at night to keep the style safe after she had it set at the beauty parlor up the road. She painted her fingernails pink, but she was fiercely strong.
She had wanted to be a nurse, but when the War came along, she worked in a factory instead. She married a soldier who she met when he was dancing, wrapped up in crepe paper in a pub on Halloween night. Then this woman, who had wanted to be a nurse and go dancing, lived the rest of her life taking care of others instead. She cared for her children, her mother in law, her mother, her grandchildren, and even touched the lives of her great grandchildren, showering them with love and food and a place to call home. She cared for the immigrants and the poor, she taught children and fed the birds. And come hell or high water, she went to Mass to pray every day.
Now she is gone and it is winter.
But the seeds of her love are here still. I remember her big pots of soup, homemade noodles drying on paper bags all over the kitchen. I remember her gentleness, her "Ach, Schatzie! You're such good kids!" She dropped everything and moved in with us whenever my mom was ill. She stepped in and adapted to our teenage lives, doing what she could to make it better. In cooking and cleaning and doing all the monotonous small things, she gave us structure and stability when life was tough. She surprised me once with a pink satin dress for homecoming, when my mom was in the hospital and my world was dark. She pushed aside my black combat boots, and said, "Put on a little pink lipstick, Dearie. The world is a beautiful place."
That's why I wanted to share my hydrangea with you today.
It may be old.
But it's a good place to find shelter from the storm.