My Nana was a strong, Italian woman. When I was little she was already older than all of my friend’s grandmas. She was not the grandma who knitted. She was not the grandma who smothered us with kisses. But my Nana cooked and was a gardener.
She lived in a tiny apartment with a postage stamp plot of earth. What I remember the most about my visits to her as a child are the smells. Her garden’s aroma was pungent, but it was not the roses or lilies that beckoned, it was the basil and swiss chard. These were the scents that would make a passerby turn they head with interest.
Nana could grow anything from a “slip”. Her entire garden consisted of slips from other yards. She could pluck a stem from just about anything, stick into the soil and it would grow. She would often give away slips of her vibrant geraniums. When I grew up and had my first home I couldn't’t wait to create a garden of my own. When I would visit Nana she would send me home with slips of cherry red geraniums. I would place them in the ground and soon they became a bush of vibrant color.
As my garden began to flourish Nana passed away. The blooms in my yard always kept her close by. Soon we began to outgrow our little start up home. Due to moving circumstances I was not able to take any slips of geraniums with me. Leaving that home was difficult, but I knew I would always have the memories. What I would not have were my Nana’s geraniums.
I would sometimes drive by that first home and wonder if I should explain to the homeowner the significance of the geraniums and just ask for a slip. My nerve never allowed me. One day as I sat on my sister’s back porch I noticed the vibrant bushes that flanked her garden. I asked if they were Nana’s geraniums. When she said yes, she knew why I began slipping the stalks. Now as I look around my garden I have Nana’s geraniums in the ground, in urns and in window boxes. They are much more than just a flower to me.