My mother gave me a seed when I was very young, and together we planted it in our backyard, under the shade of azaleas. I dug into the earth with my bare fingers, scooped out a small hole and placed the seed that mother offered gently inside, pushing the loose soil into the soft fissure and pressing with all my feeble strength, until the dirt came up between my fingers. And when I was done, I put my lips down to the earth as mother had taught and whispered a word of love: ‘grow’.
My seed did not grow. A frost came that spring, a twist in the weather that none could have foreseen. My seed died; underneath its shell the tender flesh had decayed and the functioning of growth had ceased, and it withered underneath the ground. The azaleas, too, shed their petals and fell to the earth. Our backyard became a memorial of spring.
My baby brother did not make it to the summer either. He, too, withered inside my mother’s belly, a seed that could not root and sprout. My mother’s tender whispers of ‘grow’ did not hold any sway over him, nor did her tears offer him any nourishment. He died, and she knew when she felt the blood run down her thighs. I don’t remember why it happened. I only remember my mother’s anguished cries from the bathroom floor and the smell of dying azaleas. I learned that spring that, in this bitter earth, some things cannot grow.