how a 40+ year old plant connects a granddaughter to her mother’s mother.

About 4 decades ago or more, we’re not exactly sure, my grandma Judy had some prickly pear cacti growing on the side of my mom’s childhood home. She’d propagated them from an even older prickly pear cactus at my great-grandparents home.

In the early 80’s, before her death, she gave some prickly babies from her cactus plant to her friend a few houses down. For the last 40-some years, the cactus has grown and made many, MANY cactus babies that her friend has shared with others. As she was replanting her still growing and multiplying plant this year, she offered some of it to my mom, since he was her mother’s plant originally, after all.

I’ve been trying to heal my black thumb with hearty and strong plants, so my mom figured I would want it. And she was RIGHT.

When I went out to the street I grew up on, to meet my grandma’s friend, still in the same place, she shared memories with me of my grandma, who I never knew, and told me this really incredible tidbit: this cactus hasn’t bloomed in many years. She figured it didn’t bloom anymore, that it was too old. And the day my mom messaged her back to let her know I’d take some, she replied back with a picture of it blooming!
When I brought home my cactus, within a few days, I had one blossom, then two, and soon, I look forward to a third opening up and sharing its beauty with me!

One thing everyone who has told me stories of my grandma Judy have consistently stated is that the woman was crazy, and wild, and beautiful. Larger than life, and always ready to party. And as I’ve pulled more prickly pear cactus thorns out of my body in the last few days than I care to admit, when I sit back and look at this crazy, beautiful, and frankly, badass plant, I kind of feel like it fits her so perfectly!

When my mom was telling my grandpa about me taking the plant, and sharing with him what I learned about his late wife being a bit of a firecracker, he laughed and told her, “oh, she don’t know the half of it.” That being said, it’s such a gift to share in this part of her life, and care for plants who’s roots date back to the same ones she cultivated herself.

A while back, I found the She on the Tip of Her Tongue Facebook page, where I found this beautiful image.

Included in this post is this quote from Layne Redmond’s book, When the Drummers Were Women: A Spiritual History of Rhythm:

All the eggs a woman will every carry form in her ovaries while she is a four-month-old foetus in the womb of her mother. This means our cellular life as en egg begins in the womb of our grandmother. Each of us spent five months in our grandmother’s womb, and she in turn formed within the womb of her grandmother. We vibrate to the rhythms of our mother’s blood before she herself is born, and this pulse is the thread of blood that runs all the way back through the grandmothers to the first mother.

As a grandchild who grew up only hearing stories of a mythical giant of a woman I could never know in life, this was deeply significant for me to read and carry in my heart. I know it’s been hard for my own mother to raise two daughters without her mother, not only for her own loss, but ours as well. I’ve shared this with her, not only as just a scientifically fascinating fact, but also to maybe give her some of the peace I realized while reading it too.

She might not have been able to share her mother with us in the typical ways, or the way she would have liked, but in this way, we all shared her presence, and still do, even if only on a cellular level.

And despite calling her home at such a young age, I really believe this is God’s gift to us as women – this overlapping and sharing of space we receive, and the lineage we establish. Historically, it’s a father’s legacy in name, but as we all exist within and share space within our mothers, it’s truly a mother’s, isn’t it?

The way this cactus came to be mine is certainly a cool story. At least, I think it is. And maybe just a neat coincidence that it bloomed for the first time in years only after I accepted the offer to take it. But on a personal level, it’s given me a sense of connection to a woman I began within but never knew. And it’s definitely a feeling I don’t think I can even begin to put into words, but it’s really, truly incredible.

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