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The Seasons of My Mother: A Memoir of Love, Family, and Flowers


The Seasons of My Mother: A Memoir of Love, Family, and Flowers

When Marcia Gay Harden first gained notice in the Coen brothers’ film Miller’s Crossing in 1990, it was abundantly clear that there was something so unforgettable about her performance --- assuring moviegoers that they would be hearing from this actress again, and often. Over the years, from theater to film to TV, she has demonstrated something memorable in every role. And through this poignant tribute to her mother, we see where the seeds of creativity were first planted.

Growing up the middle child in a family of five children, Harden, along with her sisters and brother, were raised to have a keen appreciation and respect for the beauty around them by their mother, Beverly. Their Navy pilot father was away often, and during these times, Beverly would make sure that her children learned and honored traditions such as May Day, where they would arrange the most beautiful little nosegays and bouquets and then secretly deliver them to their neighbors’ doorsteps.

"Throughout this lush and lyrical memoir, Harden aptly demonstrates how her mother is 'living' with [Alzheimer’s] disease and not 'suffering' from it."

Beverly Harden, a woman raised in Texas, married her college sweetheart at 19, had her first child at 20, and proceeded to have four more children, all while supporting her husband’s busy military career, which frequently brought them to exotic ports of call. While the family was stationed in Japan, in order to learn more about this exciting culture, she enrolled in a class for Ikebana, the Japanese art of flower arranging. As Harden can attest, her mother “…loves the good things in life, the pleasant scents, the positive, the seen, the known.”

Now, as a mother of three herself, Harden tries to continue the traditions and appreciations with her own family --- traditions made even more poignant due to her mother’s Alzheimer’s disease. At any given time, either one of celebration or heartache, Beverly has turned to her beloved flowers for comfort, for artistic expression, or for just plain beauty. After the death of her husband, “Feeling an aching loss of companionship, stumbling over disrupted patterns, shocked at habits not necessary anymore, and lonely for purpose and partnership, Mrs. Beverly Harden tried to piece together her past, and look forward into her future. ‘Step over the cracks; step back into your life,’ she told herself. She turned to her children, and to her garden club, and to her flowers.”

And when the signs first appeared, Harden quickly saw the effects on her mother and the memories she held so dear: “That’s what the memories seem to do, evaporate. One minute a person’s ace, or the function of a spoon, is known. The next minute, it has disappeared and is replaced with confusion, or frustration, or amusement. Language tumbles out in no particular shape sometimes, words intersperse that once make sense but don’t. There is a stealthy, cowardly, dangerous protein in my mother’s brain neurons that is malfunctioning, causing the toxic buildup to remain in her brain’s neural cells rather than be washed away…. This is a disease with no dignity, yet my mother has somehow managed to keep hers. Her appreciation of beauty remains as a purifier for her spirit.” That’s when Harden suggested they collaborate on a book together: a book about flowers.

Throughout this lush and lyrical memoir, Harden aptly demonstrates how her mother is “living” with the disease and not “suffering” from it. And through their undertaking to write THE SEASONS OF MY MOTHER, Harden has witnessed how Beverly, because so much of her past has been taken from her, truly lives in the present. “Be in the moment, now. That’s where my mother is. In the moment. Still teaching, still yearning, still loving.” Part of the reason for collaborating on a book with her mother was out of her desire to “…write a different story, or a defiant story, where my mother’s legacy will not be sleep, but rather the resilience and beauty of her spirit and a celebration of her art.” On every page of this moving, reverent and gorgeously written book, she has resplendently succeeded.

Reviewed by Bronwyn Miller on May 18, 2018

The Seasons of My Mother: A Memoir of Love, Family, and Flowers
by Marcia Gay Harden

  • Publication Date: May 1, 2018
  • Genres: Memoir, Nonfiction
  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Atria Books
  • ISBN-10: 1501135708
  • ISBN-13: 9781501135705