My family owned a greenhouse from before the time I was born, so I always think
that I grew up in a greenhouse. Actually, I grew up in the white house behind the
greenhouse- a ramshackle old house with seven bedrooms, one bath and very few
amenities- but filled with people large and small, loving and working together.
I was one of the “little girls”. There were three of us- and we were considerably younger
than our older sibs. In fact, as I was growing up, my older sister and brothers were the
“grown ups” in my life- and I learned at a young age to deal with many bosses.
But the marigolds in the picture above brought to mind one of those moments of
passage that come in our lives, taking us further from childhood and affording a view
of the possibilities that open as we can take life into our own hands and become independent.
I was still a child- not more than 10 years old- but my mother gave me a small packet of seeds
and a flat full of sterilized dirt. She said it was mine. I could plant it and take care of it and if
I wanted, could sell it and keep the money.
I don’t remember if she gave my sisters the same opportunity-or if she did, if they took her
up on it-BUT that flat of marigolds was so important to me that Spring. I carefully gridded
the dirt and planted the seeds so that they would grow into a full flat. Sparse or patchy flats
never sold well- so I placed the seeds 3/4 of an inch apart- using an old wooden ruler to measure
the distance. I misted it to keep the seeds from shifting and placed it in the hot bed on the side of
the greenhouse to keep them warm while they germinated. I planted them in mid-February to
give them plenty of time to flower before early Summer. And I watched over them- keeping
them moist but well drained.
They were dwarf French marigolds- the packet said they were named “Brownie” and I loved
the sturdy stems and leaves that grew and the brown and yellow flowers that emerged by
early May. I dead headed them to keep them trim and healthy and didn’t allow any of the
blooms to go to seed. I was so attuned to MY flat of flowers that I started to pay more
attention to the plants growing alongside them. What had been a job before, became a joy!
I watered, weeded, dead headed, moved, filled packs with dirt, and just did my chores
with more patience and interest than I ever had before- because my marigolds were growing
out there, too!
And customers were looking at my marigolds. Inquiring, “How much?”
My mother turned to me and asked if I was ready to sell them yet.
“No, not yet.” I replied each time.
These were my marigolds. My little “Brownies” and I wanted to keep them.
So- the flats all around them sold, and mine kept flourishing. They became thick and
sturdy, covered with blossoms- making the other flats look poor in comparison- and still
I wanted to keep them.
Finally, we moved them to the back of the greenhouse.
I think my mom thought I was never going to sell them.
But she was pretty tricky, my mother.
And she took me and my sisters to Robert Hall’s – the clothing store up the street-
to look for bathing suits. It was late May by this time, and the weather was getting hot.
My sisters picked suits within the budgeted amount, and the clerk rang them up and put
them in a bag. But the suit I had my eye on was black and had four rows of black corded fringe
at the hips. To my ten year old eyes, it was tres chic, and I wanted it.
It was also tres expensive` and about seven dollars over my mother’s budget.
I went over the other suits again, but after trying on that black number and shimmying those
rows of fringe by shaking my hips, they were all boring and ugly.
My mom said she would pay part of it, but I’d have to come up with the rest of the money.
I had no money. Money was to be spent as soon as it touched my hand.
I was not a saving little girl- I was more of a free spirit.
My sister, Robin, was a saver- and she offered me the money- but ,”No”, said my mother,
“if Heidi wants it bad enough, she will find a way to pay for it herself.”
So – we went home.
My sisters had their swim suits. I had nothing but a black fringed vision in my head.
Sometime during the following week, that flat of marigolds made it back to the
front of the greenhouse. And the plants were gorgeous! They were flowering and
full- and the flats around them, although perfectly nice, just didn’t come close in appeal.
I sold my flat of marigolds that week.
A lady paid me a small fortune- $8 for the flat!
I paid the difference, got the suit- treated Robin and my mom to a mug of root beer at A+W,
and felt like an entrepreneur.
I wore that suit for the next two seasons of Summer.
Every time I wore it- I felt beautiful and smart.
And I have always appreciated the beauty and economy of flowering marigolds.
I came across these volunteer marigolds in my flower bed the
other day, and suddenly, I was a little girl again.
OH- the power of marigolds- and black fringed bathing suits!