“Six twenty-three,” Lorna guessed rolling over to bring the clock on the bedside table into focus. No matter the season, her internal clock never failed; six twenty-three on the nose. Mid-summer sun, filtered by plantation blinds on the east-facing window, reflected the warm subtle glow Lorna felt in her heart as she visualized the day blossoming before her: a day of sunshine and lemon balm.
Sitting on the edge of the bed, twisting left then right; a deep breath in, arching her back; exhale, rounding her spine, chin to her chest; sitting tall, shoulders down, tummy tucked in, inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale.
Feet glide into her slippers, or house shoes as her mother called them. Lorna walked into the kitchen, put a kettle of water on the stove and opened the door to her condo balcony. Scissors in hand, snip, snip, a couple of leaves for tea.
Lorna’s daughter gave her the original lemon balm sprig.
“Plant it in the garden. The leaves are great for brewing tea, flavoring fruit salad or green salad, and for seasoning fish. Add stems to bouquets of summer flowers from the farmer’s market. Your whole house will smell lemony fresh. You’ll love it.”
Lorna spent the next five summers trying to control lemon balm from taking over her garden.
“You said it’s not supposed to spread,” she said to her daughter.
“If you keep it cut back, the flowers won’t produce seeds that sprout new plants. Trim the plant way back a few times each summer. That’s what I do.”
“Now you tell me. Who’s going to help me dig up some of the volunteer plants? I like the scent of lemon, but enough is enough.”
Before Lorna sold her house and moved into the condo, she transplanted fifteen lemon balm plants and delivered them to the Alzheimer’s unit of the assisted living facility where her father spent the last two years of his life.
“For the resident’s,” the card said. “Lemon balm is good for digestion, headaches, Alzheimer’s restlessness, and insomnia. If you plant them outside, cut them back often to keep them under control. If you leave them in pots, place them around the facility and they will add a fresh scent to the rooms.”
Sitting in her favorite rocker, Lorna inhaled the scent of lemon from the potted plant she kept for herself. As the sun peeked over the balcony wall warming her toes, Lorna remembered her last volunteer assignment at the Alzheimer’s unit. She was assigned to keep an eye on the residents in the fenced-in yard.
Edna, a new resident, wandered through the garden stopping at every lemon balm plant. She picked a stem, held it to her nose, took a deep breath in and moved on to the next plant.
Edna made her way around to Lorna and held out a bouquet of lemon balm.
“Take this. I think it smells like sunshine. I guarantee it will brighten our day.”
Edna repeated her trip around the garden gathering sunshine as if it was her first trip. She presented each new bouquet to the next person she saw. By the end of the day, every visitor to the garden caught a glimpse of Edna’s world: a place of unending sunshine and lemon balm.