The Violet Song

A birthday card from my grandmother
The birthday card from my grandmother

“Down in a green and shady bed, A modest violet grew”  As my mother sang the words to me over the phone I remembered the song. “it’s stalk was bent, it hung it’s head as if to hide from view”  When my sister Fran left a comment on my blog saying that the dried flower I found on my studio floor reminded her of the “modest violet song that mom used to sing” I couldn’t remember it.  But when I called my mom and asked her about it, without a pause, in a high, shy voice,  she started to sing it.  My mom is 84, but as she sang I saw the little girl, with the long braids,  in the black and white photo.  One of the few pictures she has of herself as a kid. Tears welled in my eyes at the sweetness of it.  Hearing the song didn’t bring back any specific memories, but it was so familiar to me, I wondered how I could have forgotten it.  Mom’s voice faded during the second verse, maybe she forgot the words, or maybe she thought she had sung enough, but then she told me how her mother, my grandmother, had written the words to that song on the back of an envelope.  Mom had saved it, but she didn’t remember where she put it.   Even though she died when I was five or six, I had a couple of birthday cards from my grandmother that I  saved in a scrap book.  In my mind I could see the envelope with the lyrics on it, I knew what the handwriting looked like.  I thought about how, just a couple of days ago, I placed the dried violet I found on the back of an envelope to photograph it.  Why did I choose to take a picture of it there?

Suddenly I’m thinking differently about that dried violet and the meaning behind it.  In it, I’m seeing  it as a message from my grandmother about  the connection between her, my mother, my sister and myself.   It’s as if we’re strung together over time and place and experience by this song.   A song which speaks to me of the loneliness of not having a voice or being known.   A song I couldn’t or didn’t want to remember until now.

I don’t know how my  mother or sister feels about this song, and I’ll never know how my grandmother felt about it, but I do know we were all touched by it enough to  remember it.   And my grandmother thought it important enough to write down.  And now I don’t imagine I’ll forget it or  it’s message, not as long as I have that dried violet that I found on my studio floor.

8 thoughts on “The Violet Song

  1. The poignancy of your memories brought tears to my eyes, Maria. Thank you so much for sharing such a personal story. Althea

  2. What touched me is that the handwriting looks just like my grandma’s looked. She lived to be 96. Grandma was a seamstress and the family provider since my grandpa had Parkinson’s . She also fitted women for undergarments and the ordered them.

  3. One day I see you stitching all your memories and much of your work into a book. You do have a way with words that is natural and true.

  4. Thanks so much for sharing this memory, Maria. The song meant something to your grandmother, for her to write it down. I see a “Violet Song” quilt in your future, with violets and snippets of the song written in panels. Also, if you want to keep your dried violet, you can use a sealer (like Mod Podge) to adhere it to something wooden (like a small box) or even a random piece of wood – would make a nice piece of art for your studio.

  5. As a child I remember my uncle Eddie singing an Irish love song….

    “Sure of all the pretty flowers that in spring or summer grow,
    I met the sweetest flower, the fairest of them all.
    Well her eyes they shone like diamonds, and her hair was like a star,
    I met my love one evening where the modest violets grow.”

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