Life is full of surprises. A few weeks ago, who could have predicted that remnants of Hurricane Rosa would shroud Camelback Mountain, flood Arizona roads and spill through the Sonoran Desert? But today–after a long, hot summer–that happened on a blissfully cool and rainy October day in the desert southwest.
And there was another, less welcome surprise as Rosa splashed against our panes of glass. I said goodbye to a piece of my past: our pink African violet.
I know what you’re thinking. “Well, that’s too bad, Mark. But it was just a plant.” Normally, I would agree. But this beautiful plant had an extraordinary journey. It was one of two cuttings from my mother’s African violets. In 2004, she carried them with her from St. Louis to her new home in northern Illinois and nurtured them over the next nine years on window sills in Winfield and Wheaton.
After Mom died in January 2013, my sister split the African violets so that each of us could enjoy living remnants of our mother’s life. Tom and I found two new containers and stationed then in our Mount Prospect, Illinois, living room. They grew and flourished there, brightening our world with splashes of pink and purple for the next four years.
When we sold our Illinois home last summer and began our trek toward Scottsdale, Arizona, the pink African violet and its purple sibling traveled with us in our Hyundai Sonata. In and out of hotel rooms. Across seventeen hundred miles. Tom drove the full distance. He kept one eye on me, sitting beside him on the passenger side recovering from the biggest surprise of our lives: my heart attack in St. Louis on our sixtieth birthday. In the rearview mirror, he watched the African violets nestled safely in the backseat in our laundry basket.
When we arrived in Arizona, the plants, Tom and I were all a little haggard. We needed time to recuperate from our trauma. With rest and warm sun, we regained our strength in our new home and so did the purple African violet. But the pink one never quite recovered. It began to fade this summer. It lost its leaves a few at a time and eventually withered and died.
Today, as Rosa ushered in autumn in Arizona, I scraped out the remnants of our pink African violet and transplanted a portion of the purple plant into its place. Of course, my hope is the strong one will spawn another survivor and a second wave of purple will spill into our desert home. Time will tell. But I will always have the memory of my loving husband leading us west and the care we took to carry the legacy of our African violets with us across the miles.