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In that garden, she planted the seeds of self-confidence
and self-love in my soul.

Her flower garden was always lovely, the envy of her pristine neighborhood. My paternal grandmother could grow anything it seemed, and when we would visit her in southern Georgia, her backyard was a haven for grandchildren and their imaginations.  It was where we danced around like fairies, played the part of Robin Hood and his Merry Men, and rolled in the grass until we were too dizzy to walk up the back steps for a popsicle. We swung in the hammock among the sweet floral air when the July sun was too much to bear. The tiger lilies left their orange streaks upon our shoulders as we crept from our hiding places and ran for base in one of our many heated games of hide and seek. It was lovely and magical.

Her garden has left many marks upon my memory, but one of the most significant came on a quiet morning before the sun could scorch our noses. My grandmother was drinking her coffee when I made my way downstairs from the guest room. We were the only two awake in the full house of cousins and family. I had not expected to meet anyone on my quest for a drink of milk that morning, and I was embarrassed. I was wearing a nightgown that made me feel too “grown” for my awkward 12-year-old self. Uncomfortable in my skin, I wrapped my arms around myself. She thought I was cold, or at least that was her reasoning, and she suggested we go outside to the garden. She started weeding a flower bed, and when she asked for my help, well, I had to untangle my arms. I knelt there in the wet grass next to my grandmother, and I couldn’t help but compare our bodies. She was petite in every way, and I yearned to have inherited some of her genes (or to at least be able to fit into her jean size). At 12, I was already a few inches taller than her and definitely more than 40 pounds heavier than her. I inherited a curvy figure from my mother’s side of the family, and I was at odds with how I looked.

Though my arms were no longer swaddling my chest and holding my nightgown in place, my heart was still guarded from accepting myself. Lost in my embarrassment, I’m not sure how long we weeded that flower bed or if I was helping in any way. Perhaps it was her grandmother’s intuition or maybe she needed to stop me from carelessly picking viable flowers instead of weeds, but at one point, my grandmother complimented my nightgown. Or at least I thought she did. She said, “You look lovely in that nightgown.” I brushed away her words, mumbling, “I love this shade of blue…it matches my eyes.” With her smaller stature, she was able to catch my blue eyes with her loving smile. I felt like she was looking deep within me when she said, “Yes, it’s a nice color, but you are the lovely one.” I tried to blame my watering eyes on the pollen. She gracefully allowed me to sneak by with that excuse and scooted closer to me. She enveloped me in her tiny arms, and for that moment, I felt small and delicate in her presence. I saw her as a giant…because one must be to have such a large heart. In that garden, she planted the seeds of self-confidence and self-love in my soul. With her southern charm, green thumb, and grandmother insight, she weeded away my doubt and allowed me to flourish in the brightness of her light and care.

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