AFRICAN VIOLETS FOR AN AFRICAN QUEEN (or mothers and daughters)
I love flowers and when I browse the photos I have loaded on to Instagram so many of them are of flowers. All sorts. Flowers I have been given, from my garden, somebody elses garden, the footpath, magazine images, books….you name it I will find a flower to enjoy anywhere.
But the flower that seems to resonate the depeest with me is the African Violet. I grew up in the sub tropics. Land of sugarcane farms and verdant bush. Flowers were large and colourful. Bouganvillea, hibiscus what I now think of as holiday flowers. Fragile blossoms and annuals didn’t get a look in. So I think that is why the African Violet that Granny (yes she is back again this week) grew made such a distinct impression on me. Here were flowers that needed to be tended and their petals were small and fragile. She seemed to always have a collection on her kitchen window sill.
My mother was in hospital this week and when I went to visit her I stepped into a lift and there was someone else’s granny holding an African Violet. I turned to my Dad and said “Dad, looks there’s an African Violet. It reminds me so much of Granny” and then he tells me that Mum now has her very own African Violet that she was given and is now tending to. I wonder how long it will be before the traditions continues through the family?
It got me thinking about mothers and daughters. Seeing my mother so fragile and yet so brave and resilient at the same time this week made me look at her with fresh eyes. I saw a woman with courage as she faced uncertainty and I thought in how many different ways she has done that before. I saw her grace and courtesy towards the nursing staff and how she accepted their kindness when she was at her most vulnerable.
When I think about the realtionships my friends and I have with our mothers it is clear that the bond between mothers and daughters is a deep and abiding one. Yet the day to day expression of that bond can be fractious and prickly. We see our differences, we wonder at the choices the other has made and in many instances have forogtten how to talk to each for fear of being judged.
I am a mother of a nine year old daughter and I wonder what she sees when she looks at me. I don’t show her my vulnerabilities because I want to be a rock for her as she navigates her way though childhood. Will I carry this ‘hiding’ on into our adult mother daughter relationship? Is this what our mothers have done to us?
When I was thinking of a title for this post African Queen seemed to balance with African Violet. African Queen is a movie from the 1950’s starring Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn. Googling around for a definition of queen I came upon this
A woman, or something personified as a woman, that is foremost or preeminent in any respect: movie queen; a beauty queen; Athens, the queen of the Aegean.
And I thought to myself how much easier it is to see someone else as more beautiful, more important, more entitled than us. I think we are blind to our own ‘queenliness’ as women. Those qualities of grace, courage and vulnerability I saw in my mother this week made her an African* Queen to me. (* my mum was born in Africa).
How do we acknowledge the ‘queenliness’ in ourselves, each other, our mothers and perhaps more importantly how do we gift this ‘queenliness’ to our daughters?
‘Queen’ Liska xx