My Traumatised childhood with my Orchid Obsessed Mother …

My mother started growing orchids when we lived in Rhodesia in the late 70’s, I must have been around 5 or 6 years old, but I was too young at the time to understand what a lifesaver and an intertwined role Orchids would play in our lives.  When my parents made the decision to head for the Border, to return to Cape Town we did it in style, well for the early 80’s we did … Bernadette & Dad where in the front of the car and in the back seat of the Jag, was mum, little 7 year old me, Giant Big Green Teddy and 2 or 3 trays of mixed seedlings and Lady our Rhodesian pavement special.  You will note that the seedlings didn’t go in the boot or on the back window ledge of the car, heavens no, the boot would be too dark and the back window would stream in too much sunlight for their delicate little leaves.  Nope, in the body of the car with the rest of mum’s most prized possessions, there we all were …

There was that time when growing Phalaenopsis Orchids became a priority for mum … they are beautiful orchids and she knows they are my absolute favourite but seriously mum do we live in the tropics – hell no mother – my mother would not be deterred (this being in the years before the cat house), my mother turned our family bathroom into Phuket!  At some stage there have been racks mounted on the walls catching your radox infused water vapour as you took a bath.  Or trying to reach for something on the windowsill in the bathroom only having to contort yourself into illegal and obscene positions, so as not to touch the blooms that will be exhibited at next week’s show.  Even just getting into the bath was sometimes a mine-field … before getting into the bath, you would have to find a suitable, and approved by mother, relocation spot because some plant was being nursed back to full health or something had being quarantined for a show and was being watered in the bath!  Oui vey
Or there were the many many many mornings when the neighbours would think that somebody had been murdered in the back garden, as mum would let out this loud primal bloodcurdling warble as some, now dead, snail had dared to graze on something that was earmarked for the show or to be photographed tomorrow.
Then there were the endless shows that we were roped into working at … it’s called child labour mother, and it is illegal!  No-body tell her, but we secretly loved going to them … each and every one of them, we were exposed to wonderfully exotic people (and plants) from every walk of life and because Kirstenbosch was one of the most magical places on the earth … a very big magical garden with streams and bridges and if you were very lucky (and quiet) you would see wildlife and then I would race back up to the Hall and tell mum!  Yip – loved it!
It wasn’t all bad … being surrounded by such constant beauty is truly a gift.  We have been quite spoilt really for choice!  Growing up in the orchid world ignited my senses, every time I walk into a florist there is that smell again … show week!  The heady intoxication of millions of orchid blooms, foliage, moss and Ricoffy.    I ALWAYS had way better flowers for teacher on the first day of spring, when my other little school buddies were bringing in some bedraggled daisies, I would have mum’s coolest and latest perfumed Cattleya!  I was exposed to raw determination at a very early age, nothing teaches better than a great example … mother would NEVER give up on any little slip of something that was struggling, even if it would take her years and years and years to see it flower … she would.  The Orchid world introduced me to the concept of lifelong friendship … some of mum’s orchid friends have been good friends to her for decades now – I value that!  I learned to see in High Definition – long before it was technologically available.  I also learned of the calming properties of nature, when I had driven my mum to distraction, she would escape to the greenhouse for a while only to emerge for round 2 – and she would win!  Orchids exposed me to exotic people, places and events at such an important age.  It expanded my vocabulary at a vital learning age … how many 10 year olds could even say Cymbidium, let alone spell it!  At a very early age I was encouraged to reach for perfection and to see it in others.  Sadly the same can be said for imperfection but life is also about balance – I learned that too!  Orchids also taught me something that only now as a parent myself I see the lesson in … that it is vital and perfectly ok for your parent to have something that consumes them with love and passionother than you … this taught me my humble place in the Universe.  And one of my children has been immortalized in a plant name, so how cool is that! 
Yip … a pretty good childhood really … not as traumatised as I thought … but mum … she is STILL obsessed … and we wouldn’t have it any other way …  

(A disclaimer - you should know … my mother asked me to write this article to submit to the Orchid Society's Newsletters, something light and quirky ... who am I to argue ... J )

Warm regards
Collette in Cape Town

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