The weekend before last, my oldest son and I visited my parents in Michigan in order to work with Dziadzi in his shop on an electric guitar Bren is rebuilding and to connect with the Russell Kirk Center as he contemplates life after the University of Mary and—possibly—graduate school.
It was a good visit, as always, but it included three beautiful surprises: two different species of flower descended from my great Busia’s flowerbeds and a beautiful family story.
Behind their log house, my folks have a robust, red-orange trumpet vine attracting hummingbirds and bees and sending up shoots from the surrounding lawn. This particular vine stems from a cutting taken from the Bronisław Galubenski farm in the Thumb region of Michigan, where my mom and dad grew up. I dug out a few of the new shoots and will try to get them to take root here.
But I only asked about the trumpet vine after Mom asked if my bride would like some lily-of-the-valley. I have to admit, I didn’t know the flower, which she described as pretty, little, white, bell-like flowers with scalloped edges that, once they take off, spread quickly. “I have too many, and I need to make room,” she said.
Then she told the story: When her Busia was leaving the old country to come to the U.S., she dug up some lily-of-the valley and carried it onto the boat with her, in her pocket. She kept it alive across the Atlantic and planted it in New York, where they stayed after they landed in America.
When the time came to move to Michigan and resume farming (in a countryside not unlike southern Poland), she again dug up some lily-of-the-valley and transplanted it to Michigan—a little splash of home on the other side of the world. These plants taking over the beds beside my parents’ red barn are descendants of Great-Busia’s Polish transplants.
There was more to the story: After my mother’s Busia passed away, when her Dziadzi was alone beside her casket, he took from his pocket some lily-of-the-valley to bury with his bride.
I brought home two cardboard boxes to plant here. If they take root here, I will bring them with us wherever we go, too.
From Poland, with love.