I love my mother dearly, but I have always been kind of terrified of growing up to be exactly like her. Some things I have no control over, like the ever-so-delightful combination of anxiety and perfectionism. It also never ceases to amaze me how much looking at old photos of my mom is like looking in a mirror. But there are other things I have control over—my reluctant struggles with minimalism (lite), for one, since I’ve got maximalist and pack rat tendencies in my blood. I think it’s pretty normal to look at traits present in immediate and extended family members and vow to yourself you’re not going to do that thing or think that way, so I’m hardly alone here.
But it turns out being my mother’s daughter is not always a bad thing. Let me tell you about two things my mom does that I used to be embarrassed about.
The summer I graduated high school, the five of us took a 10-day trip out to the southwest and fit in as many national and state parks as we possibly could on our drive from Phoenix to Denver. Something we all learned from my mother on that trip is that if you smell the bark of a Ponderosa pine, it smells like vanilla. It’s really awesome and you should test it out for yourself the next opportunity you get.
So that was cool. It’s not like the spindly pine trees all over North Carolina smell like anything. But then my mom proceeded to tell everyone about it, too. So not only was she the lady sniffing the trees all the time, but she was trying to get others to do it, as well. EMBARASSING.
I don’t know why it mattered so much and people were always like “woah, that’s so neat!” and proceeded to sniff the trees for themselves. And if they’d been bothered by it, so what? We were just some family out of hundreds of other families there. It wasn’t like I was going to walk around for the rest of my life with a neon sign over my head saying “HER MOM SOMETIMES GOES UP TO TREES AND SMELLS THE BARK.” But I was still embarrassed.
Warning: will now sometimes go up to trees and smell their bark…
My mom’s way better than I am about giving no fucks about what people think (or at least not letting that affect her). Sometimes it’s a bit abrasive but for the most part I’d say it’s a good thing. I sometimes marvel at how on earth I took the complete opposite approach and grew up being such a total people-pleaser, but that’s a completely separate conversation that doesn’t need to happen here. And I’m working on it.
I joined a friend last summer for part of his roadtrip from VA to LA and we briefly stopped in at Bryce Canyon just in time to see the sunset (thank you, national parks pass!). Did I take a leaf (heh) from my mother’s book and tell him about the pines and make him sniff a tree? You bet I did. That’s a fun fact that’s too cool not to share.
Can’t escape it
The second previously-embarassing thing is pretty closely related to the tree-sniffing. On family trips mom’ll ask us to pause and have dad give her the camera so she can take a picture of some cool plants or wildflowers (or, more recently since my family’s introduction to smartphones, ask someone else to use their phone to take a photo and send it to her because she’d long since used up all the available space on her 8GB phone—which has thankfully now been replaced so she has storage again).
This is obviously far preferable to the telling-complete-strangers-about-which-trees-smell-good thing, but it’s still one of those very my mother things, y’know? Of course we humored her, but it was always with a slight eyeroll and an exasperated “yes, mom,” as we paused to wait.
Ahem. Have you by any chance taken a look at my Instagram feed lately?
Pretty much all flowers all the time for the last 2+ months.
Joke’s on me now, because it turns out I’m pretty good at identifying plants and I absolutely stop to take pictures of them.
A family legacy
I’ll still make jokes about “oops, gotta stop to take a picture of this flower for my mom,” but 90% of the time I’m interested in hearing if she knows what kind of flower it is anyway. The reason I can identify so many plants myself is either because she’s grown them in the garden for years or because I’ve asked her enough times that I’ve finally learned to identify them on my own (trees are a different story though. And poison ivy, which I REALLY should finally learn, considering the amount of time I spend outside in the woods on my weekends).
Last year I made a joke on my personal Instagram account about being a #crazyplantlady and one of my mom’s cousins by marriage responded with a comment about me taking after my grandmother. It wasn’t until then that I realized my affinity for plants and the sun (#solarpoweredhuman—legit my grandparents would take long trips every February so my grandma could escape the doldrums of winter in Ohio) is because I am not only my mother’s daughter, but I’m also my grandmother’s granddaughter.
The reason my mom knows the names of so many plants is because her mother taught her. We lost my grandmother absolutely way too young thanks to cancer and I love that her affinity for green growing things has been passed down at least to my generation (even if I feel like I’m always on the verge of killing my poor plants. Here’s hoping my cousins are better at it than I am). There are so, so many ways I wish I were more like her, but I’ve at least got that going for me.
Mindful commuting moments
Perhaps it’s obnoxious for those of you following me on Instagram to see so many photos of the flowers in my neighborhood, but I’m pretty bad at protecting my time. If those two things don’t sound related, keep reading. I’ve written multiple posts about my struggles with time. I’ve spent the entire year so far thinking “if I can just get past this month, things will calm down.” Shocker, it’s now May and the rest of my month is jam-packed. Maybe June will be the calm month? ?♀️
And I bring it on myself: see also the four straight days I worked Saturday-Tuesday of last week.
Bouncing between two jobs and spending whole evenings writing blog posts and trying to fit some chores and some fun into there does not a very interesting Instagram account make. It doesn’t make for a very interesting day-to-day life, to be quite honest, and I constantly struggle to come up with something to write about here. But since I walk everywhere and have specific routes I’ll take most every day, I’ve had a lot of opportunity this spring to pay attention to what the plants in peoples’ yards are doing. Hence all the photos.
We can debate how mindful I’m actually being when I’m taking a photo of something instead of stopping to observe solely with my eyes, but the fact that I stop at all is a win. I’m a fast walker and I’ve got places to be, so if I’m noticing plants at least I’m paying a modicum of attention.
Also it’s flowers. I’m not terribly worried I’m missing out on important life experiences by taking photos of flowers in my neighborhood!
So yes, my Instagram feed has been two long months of flowers and more flowers. Those pictures represent small moments of time spent slowing down, and it’s either flowers and small snippets of what’s going on behind the scenes in the captions or nothing. I’d be at a loss otherwise as to what to post.
Like mother like daughter
I’m no longer embarrassed to pause for mom to take a photo of something, to ask her for probably the tenth time what a particular plant is, to smell the pine trees myself, or to even be that person who is constantly pausing to check out the plants. (Yes, I’m absolutely sure the owners of my favorite cherry blossom trees in my neighborhood know me by sight since I’ve now spent multiple years marveling at their trees in the spring. Can’t help it, they’re too gorgeous.)
The other day I’d paused to take a picture of a particularly gorgeous rosebush. A guy out walking his dog passed me and said “aren’t those beautiful? So many people stop to do just that.” So it’s not just me. And yes, I took the opportunity to smell the roses too while I was there.
It might be very quiet around here for the next week. I’m taking a day and a half off work this week so I can meet Angela during her whirlwind tour of the east coast, yay! I can guarantee I will not be writing a post Wednesday night. I’m also going to visit a friend in Florida over Memorial Day and plan on not doing much of anything other than sitting on the beach for a few days. So I’m not promising I’ll get any posts written in the next week.
On the other hand, you might see something other than flowers on Instagram for a bit, so enjoy that!