Thirty some odd years ago during a visit to my parents, I mentioned the profusion of violets that were in our yard at home. My father, who was a character I'm sure you'll hear more of, leapt up, rummaged through a cupboard, and with a flourish presented me the boat you see pictured. When asked what it was, he responded that it was a European violet boat.
I took it home and went into the yard with my then toddler son. We picked many violets. If you look closely, you'll see that the boat has 34 holes. From the beginning, the goal was to put 20 violet stems into each hole, which entails picking 680 violets, plus leaves to go around the edges. Some years the violet stems are too thick, so you only need 500 or so. This rite takes from two to three hours each year, dependent on the the number of children involved, their ability to focus, and my own stamina in relation to said children.
First with my son, then adding my daughter, eventually passing the torch to my granddaughters, this year I found myself with no one to join me. I thought to forgo the experience. This left me feeling sad, so Saturday I decided to fill the boat on my own, about a week later than usual.
As I picked... and picked... and picked, I let my mind wander through the many years of violets. Laughing children. Annoyed children. Dogs and kittens following us around the yard, tumbling through the greenery. Kids rolling their eyes at each other when they thought I wasn't looking, yet picking to humour their mother's whim. The wondrous year when an often recalcitrant fifteen-year-old daughter came home for the weekend and suddenly appeared before her distracted, overworked mother, holding out an already-filled boat, a smile in her eyes. Last year, with my four-year-old granddaughter, who didn't quite get the point, but- what the heck!
Maybe next year Kaia or Yzzi will be around to learn the method of leaving long stems, of not pulling the plants out.
In any case, I think I'll be out picking violets. My father would approve.
Originally published Monday, May 17 1:10 AM