Inside My Mother's Garden

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In June of 1982, with the harsh sun beating down on their small, rural city, my mother’s community danced throughout the streets in her honor, making music with makeshift instruments as they moved. The quiet town, on the outskirts of Bishoftu, Ethiopia, was shaken to its core the moment my mother made history, becoming the first girl among them to attend college. That first step outside of her village would lead her to a life that spanned three continents and four different homes. Eventually settling in America, my mother sought to stake claim in a new and unfamiliar place.

There was no sense of self, nothing that distinguished our home from our neighbor’s--each apartment the same size, the same color, and the same brick pattern. Yet, hiding behind each building was a garden--some well-cared for while others neglected--that was unlike anything that surrounded it. Though each garden was the standard 10 by 10 plot of concrete-free land, my mother somehow made her garden her own; confined to only a few square feet, her flowers, so full of life, hope, and promise, still bloomed.

“Mom,” I remember my child self pleading, "Can I water the flowers today?”

Smiling down at me, she handed me the watering can, telling me to be careful not...

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