It read on the map of creases

It was a grey, slow morning in July. Dado, my paternal grandmother, sat in her rocking chair on the shaded patio. Entranced, I watched her face as the sunlight reflected off her tanned, wrinkled skin. Her eyes belied her 66 years and her personality was all there to be read on the map of creases on her face. She had laughter lines from her gift of smiling so easily and wrinkles on her forehead that told her worries of the past and present. Her withered lips constantly moved in inaudible prayer. Her face took on a look of delight as she said, “Let’s have a cup of tea.” So, we did, always made in a blue china pot, milk in a little jug, and soft date filled cookies.After the early morning tea, we proceeded to our backyard garden. Dado loved gardening. Tending to plants by nursing flowers, prepping flower beds, and pruning the twigs: these afforded her the greatest delight. Most of all, she found pleasure in planting motia, Arabic jasmines. In the garden, clusters of motiareared their heads amidst the gloom and their sweet, almost sickly fragrance cut through the scent of the grass. From making motia gajras or bracelets to brewing motia infused tea, Dadoalways tried to incorporate the timeless blossom in her daily lifestyle. Her 67th birthday was in a month. Flecks of golden sunshine mingled with the wispy clouds as I stood in the garden. “She loves motia. I think planting motia for her will make a great gift,” thought my 10-year-old self. I felt like I was swallowing dew as I dug through the upturned mud, so soft in my hands. I dug a hole, filled it with water, and placed a motia plant. I created barrier of soil around it, making a reservoir for water, and lightly patted it around the base to hold the plant in place. I was certain it would grow. For the next 30 days, I restlessly checked the plant. Watering, trimming, and pruning became daily chores. Patches of dirt were visible on my clothes and my nails had to be washed regularly. Much to my dismay, the forlorn plant’s once brilliant color had faded as its pearly white petals turned rusty brown. Its stem and leaves drooped. The flowers curled up and became stiff. On Dado’s birthday, I bought a motia gajrafrom the street vendor. Later that day, once again, we sat on the patio. “A gardener has to play the role of a mother. Like a child requires personal care from his mother, your garden, too, needs your personal care. It requires food and water, but it also requires your love and affection.” These words stuck with me and lingered in my head the next 7 times I set out to grow the plant. White spots, flower blights, pest attacks: I failed miserably each time. The 8th time I planted the stubborn plant was before Dado’s 68th birthday. And on her birthday, I presented her with a handmade gajra from the 1st motia plant I was able to grow successfully.It’s a foggy morning in September. The wind carries the traces of a cold night and the few remaining stars blink out of existence. I, now, stand in front of Dado’s grave, with a handful of shriveled up motia. My hands feel numb. But the mud, it appears soft. Dado always reminded me that achieving your goals is never easy and that one must work hard to attain something, be it as simple as planting a healthy bush of motia. She taught me to never doubt the capabilities I possess and never give up despite how difficult or impossible my goals seem to be. Although she left the world 7 years ago, I know I will be proudly carrying a motia wherever I go, and I know she will be smiling from up above.

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