Months ago my friend, Melissa, brought me two pots of butter daisies. I plopped them at the base of a big old magnolia tree in my front yard, with the idea of leaving the hearty spreading plants to escape and proliferate on their own. This morning I decided to hurry the process along, and dug some starts from a wild patch growing on the side of the road.

I did not dig to plant the butter daisy sprigs–that would require a reciprocating saw and great deal of effort to cut through the roots of the magnolia. I simply dumped potting soil atop the ground in a couple of heaps, stuck in the plants and tamped around them. I also bent two trailers from the pots, and covered them with the potting soil. I then scrapped down beneath the magnolia leaves to the rich leaf mold and layered it on top.

As I straightened and dusted dirt from my hands, the unthinkable happened. My mother’s words came out of my mouth: “Well, I’m just piddlin’.”

Mama comes often to mind when I’m messing about with plants. I don’t think I can call it truly gardening. That would imply I know what I’m doing and have a plan, neither of which applies to me. Piddling was Mama’s word.

I am the same age that Mama was when she began growing a small flower garden, something I cannot recall her ever doing before. I remember her throwing buckets of water on a struggling mimosa sapling; I think she wanted it to live because she liked the name mimosa. But I had never seen her actually plant a garden.

We had moved her halfway across the continent to live near us in Oklahoma, because everyone of our family had moved or died off back home, and she was alone. I didn’t see it at the time, but realize now that this move, as all such moves do, closed an era of her life and opened for her a brand new one, one that allowed many regrets and worries to drop away and freed her to explore within and without.

To start it all off, somewhere Mama procured a wisteria cutting. She planted the tender shoot at the base of the chain-link fence behind her duplex apartment. That wisteria shoot began to grow, there in the harsh conditions of the edge of the high-plains. The lawn-care man whacked it with his weed-eater, but when Mama saw it coming back, she dared to go out there and put a little protective fence around it. As it grew, she trailed it up the fence, having a bang-up time simply watching to see if it would survive. (It did and bloomed!)

From there came the strip of garden outside her living room window. I vaguely recall digging at least part of it. The garden grew and bloomed with this colorful flower and that one. When I would visit her and find her out tending her plants, she would say, “Oh, I’m just piddlin’.” I think of her smile and the light in her coffee-brown eyes.

For the better part of my life, and especially as I have aged, people have remarked on my resemblance to my mother. Let me tell you, I hated hearing it. I suspect many women feel this way. Mother-daughter relationships can be complicated. Mine certainly was, and so was my mother’s with her mother.

The older I’ve become, the more I understand there are things that simply are and cannot be escaped. As I was blessed to be my mother’s care-giver in her final years, I came to know her more intimately and to admire her humor, courage, and grace, all traits I could only see and appreciate as I matured.

And in my maturity I understand that my main objection to my resemblance to my mother was because I feared being alone as she was.

The fearful thing has now happened. I am alone. And as so many things that we fear, it really isn’t quite as fearful as I feared it would be.

This week, as I enter my tenth year on my own alone, I find I am surprisingly content. I have a life where I discover the pleasure of having time to simply think, to enjoy reading again, and writing in a brand new way for the writing’s sake, not always for publication but because I can do no other if I am to follow the calling of my heart. And one where I learn the comfort and joy of ‘piddlin’ with plants.

I’ll report if the butter daisies flourish.

11 thoughts on “Piddlin’

  1. Hi CurtissAnn “Just Piddlin” must be some common phrase from North Carolinasince I used to hear my grandmother say it.  She was also from Elizabeth City…..and  Aunt Flip used that term also.  I seem to remember Aunt Flip who was a very good cook often say shewas “just piddlin” when she was in the kitchen.  Thanks for somefond memories your story brought to mind. …love, jim 

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jim– thanks for sharing about your grandmother also saying ‘piddlin’. It is such a delight to know someone shares similar memories. With my husband’s death, I lost anyone who remembered my history of family and Elizabeth City, how it was. I remember Aunt Flip as the kindest of people, and my childish delight in how pretty her house was. Sending love, dear cousin. ~CurtissAnn


  2. I love your little short stories. They have similarities in all our lives. I can see you piddlin’. And I believe your Momma sees it too. And she is smiling at her sweet CurtissAnn. Take care my friend. Can’t wait for the next adventure you have. Love, Linda

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I finished paragraph 6 and felt the urge to stop reading and write a message telling you how much the last sentence of that paragraph moved my heart. Instead, I kept reading. And now I can only say that this entire post touched my heart. It made me long for a conversation with you & your mother, each of us enjoying a big glass of iced sweet tea. Your words are such a tribute to her; more importantly, so are you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Patti, you do know you compelled me to go re-read what I had written and count the paragraphs! What a hoot! I generally pretty well forget what I have written as soon as I’ve written it. I’m honored, dear woman, that you took time to read and to respond, and pay me such a high compliment. My mother would be delighted no end, if terribly shy. We are both on our own, you and I, so I know you understand. Thank you.


  4. Love and can relate so well to this as I have so many of your recent posts. ❤️ Thank you for always inspiring and comforting me.


    • Darling woman, many years now since we have met on the internet? I’m glad what I’ve written to express (and comfort) myself comforts you. I’m learning of myself here on this blog, and it is teaching me how to write essays. Makes me smile. Reminds me of that C.S. Lewis quote that goes more or less: “Friendship … is born at the moment when one man says to another “What! You too? I thought that no one but myself . . .” Thank you so very much for the comment.


    • Well, Gwen, your words touch me, delight and inspire me no end. Thank you for taking the time to not only read something I’ve written but to respond. This is how we help one another in this world. God bless.


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