Hollyhocks and Resilience

Showstopper – in more than one way

My mom was a walking conundrum.  I learned to work around her moods, but one wacky episode popped to mind this morning – prompted by an unassuming and lovely bloom.  A singularly determined late summer stunner nestled behind our garage. This vibrant hollyhock – pictured above.

Its brethren have long since pooped out but this guy?  He’s still got stage presence, demanding attention.  So, I give it.  And as I’m looking him over, wondering why I’ve assigned male pronouns to a flower 😊 I realize why I dislike hollyhocks.  In one unsettling wave, I remember.

I don’t recall the year, but sister (Lisa) and I were old enough to walk to the Rite Aid drugstore to do a little shopping for Mother’s Day. We bought a bouquet of mixed flowers and a fresh box of chocolate covered cherries.  (Lisa and I sometimes wondered what “fresh” candy was – nothing was dated in those days and we guessed it just meant it was better than the stash mom not-so-secretly-hid in her nightstand.)

We felt triumphant as we woke mom with her gifts, along with a cup of black coffee and her cigarettes.  Yeah for us!  Almost. Funny how you can block a slice of unpleasantry for decades, isn’t it?  I shelved this story in the way, way back – at least until the show-stopper hollyhock said hello earlier today. 

Mom’s reaction to her Mother’s Day gifts?  She looked at the bouquet of flowers, prominently showcasing both hollyhocks and gladiolas (I didn’t know their names then, but I learned…) and tossed them on the floor with an angry, “FUNERAL flowers?  FUNERAL flowers? It’s Mother’s Day!  I hate them” followed by a testy grab of the candy and a more softly muttered… ‘But these are okay”.

Lisa, given her sweetness and emotional vulnerability was a puddle in an instant. I tended to her first – trying to smooth over and re-contextualize the hurt.  Usually this:  Mom didn’t mean it or Mom’s just tired followed by It’s not your fault.  Distracting Lisa by nudging her along to another activity also helped.  That day we made pancakes.  Food as the solution – again.  Sigh.

Just the same, like other nasty bits, for my own sanity, I shut the door to the memory – quick as I could.  Years later, I’m amazed that these scenes are still powerful enough to swim into everyday life.  Life with mom wasn’t always a train wreck…but when it was, it was.

My take-away?  NOW I know why I’ve never liked the hollyhocks 😉 that hubby’s been nursing back to health in our yard.  I’ve been indifferent to them – never cutting them and plopping them in a vase.  I’m still not sure about mom’s crazy claim that hollyhocks (and gladiolas) are ‘funeral flowers’.  Anyone who’s more in the know can fill me in on that.

Oh – and why the sharing?  No, no — not because it’s sad. Quite the contrary. For me, it’s a proof-positive example that remembering, while unpleasant, can breed resilience, if you dare to let it.

Thanks for reading.  The boisterous and bold Mr. Hollyhock says hello.


Vicki ❤

17 responses to “Hollyhocks and Resilience”

  1. I love this post, Vicki. Because it speaks to putting words (and memories) to those things that niggle at us. And once we do that, the power those dusty corners and memories start to fade and we heal. Beautiful job – in writing this and inspiring a dig into unhealed corners!!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Sending love ❤! Thanks much, Wynne. Love your phrase ‘unhealed corners’. 😉


  2. I can’t imagine a parent being unable to see the thoughtful intention behind her children’s gifts. 😥 I hope that, in time, the hollyhocks in your yard will evoke a positive emotion or, at a minimum, continue to remind you of your resilience. 💕🌺

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You are so sweet — thank you for that. I know mom was doing her best…it was hard for her to “give” what she never received. Love your comment and positivity! xo! ❤

      Liked by 2 people

  3. For you it’s hollyhocks, for me it’s a simple metal toolbox. My father meant well, but he had an angry streak inside of him that came out when he was worried and stress. Unfortunately, it usually came out when he was trying to fix the family car or something in the house. My brother and I were the ones who got to see it in full. Fast forward to last week — I was in my garage cleaning up and my wife and I were joking that I never picked up my father’s ability to work with his hands. I’m not much of a fixer-upper. When I really started to think about it, the answer jumped out at me in neon lights. As a kid, I feared the toolbox . . . it meant anger, worry about money, and usually being called a name or two. Like you, I’m always amazed how memories like that can come flooding back out of nowhere. And like you mentioned, my best way to deal with those memories is to put them on paper. When I’m successful, I find that I take control of the narrative, I can see my resilience to overcome, and, ultimately, I’m able to see my father in a different light. Thanks for you story . . . A very poignant one. I wasn’t expecting to think about some of these thoughts today, but I’m grateful for them. Thanks so much Victoria for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Brian — thank YOU for sharing this. I think it’s an excellent example of what you described. How an everyday moment becomes something more in a flash. I ‘get’ the toolbox fear based on your description of you dad. Yup. How terrific that we can put these waves of feeling into a framework – make sense of it – and still carry on. Thank you for the gift of sharing. Much appreciated — big smiles back to you! 😊😊😊

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’ve written about those moments some. I don’t post them much. My mother is still alive and there’s no need to make her sad. But it is good to get them out and to make sense of them. Thx!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. This post made me think. I find it amazing, in myself, that I tend to remember the negative, or stupid things I did in the past. These uninvited memories can be like the plague unless you can shoo them away.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Right there with you, Kathleen. Thx so much for sharing that! 😘


  5. An Audience of One Avatar
    An Audience of One

    I know it wasn’t your intent, but this broke my heart a little. But… I applaud you for recognizing your feelings and working through them, even so many years later. Crazy how old hurts can come back and hit you right between the eyes, like you’re “there” all over again. Thank you for your transparency, and sharing. 🤍

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aw…thanks Kendra. I worried this post might hit some folks hard — sorry about that – but rest assured I’ve worked through it all (many times over). I figure all of those bits and pieces – even the unpleasant ones – made me, ME. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      1. An Audience of One Avatar
        An Audience of One

        What a beautiful way to look at it. And we’re glad you’re you! 🤍

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Aww….thank you so much. 😘

          Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m sad for smaller you and your sister. But I just have to point something out. Your writing is so vivid. I can picture the scene in my head like a movie.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for reading….and your compliment? Lovely! Much appreciated. 😉


  7. Yes, I agree with your conclusion that unpleasantness can breed resilience, if you let it. While I’m sorry about what happened with your mother and the flowers, the fact that you’ve turned it around and learned something from it seems the best takeaway that could happen. Kudos to you

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ever grateful for your comments, Ally. Thanks much! 😉

      Liked by 1 person

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