Easter, Father, flowers, Hyacinth, Memoir

Love, Delivered.

Funny what starts a trigger. For me, it is hyacinth.

My first: delivered to the back steps of my childhood home on a snowy Connecticut March day, the potted bulb cradled in pink foil tied with a white bow, buds tightly closed on verdant green stalks leaning bravely into the winter wind. Tucked between the stems, a minuscule florist envelope, the card reading From the E. Bunny penned in my father’s funny half-script-half-print, signed off with his signature smiley face adorned with a small squiggle of hair. Oh, Dad. I felt so grown up I thought I would burst.

And a few days later, as the centerpiece on the Easter dinner table, the flowers opened to bundles of lilac blossoms, the fragrance — mingled with lamb, mint jelly, roasted potatoes — imprinted on me forever. My first, of almost forty, potted hyacinth delivered by florists to my door over the next four decades, whether my dining table was in Connecticut, Seattle, San Francisco, or later, Boston.

My father died in March, 2011. I held his hand those final days and rambled on about all the things I could and would remember about him and us, thanked him for so many things, even got a faint smile once or twice. But I forgot the flowers. When Easter came a few weeks later there were lilies on my table. My doorbell didn’t ring. I lost him all over again: it’s the little things that can hurt the most.

Spring is here in Seattle, the bulbs are bursting. Walking a neighbor’s puppy this afternoon we chanced upon a garden flocked with those white, pink, purple spring bulbs. The fragrance staggered me and left me breathless. All those memories firing and triggering and my heart bleeding just a little. Did he realize that eight years after he died I would still half-anticipate the doorbell, a florist delivery person standing on the step holding a foil wrapped pot? That I would miss seeing the lopsided grin of his silly squiggle person on those cards? That just a tiny whiff of the blossom would make me cry? I will never know what made him begin that tradition. I do know that at Easter I miss him the most.

As a parent I often reevaluate before the holidays and think well the kids are grownups now, they can’t possibly care about this tradition anymore. Then I remember his simple gesture, repeated over and over; the pink foil, the little skip of joy in my chest, the smell of a hyacinth bursting from the bulb. How it felt to have a father.

We are never too young, or too grown up, for love to be delivered, in any way.

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 Kingsland Kitchen, Portland, Oregon

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Changes

Reconstruction.

The sky is blushing like dry rosè tonight. I am packing up a family vacation feeling the usual mix of relief and regret, fatigue and rejuvenation. August had been action packed:  my Connecticut childhood home was sold and emptied, the eldest’s wedding has taken form, winter travel has been hashed out. What we are not doing is prodding a child along to get ready for school and writing a tuition check —  not one remains on an academic schedule this fall, 2016. The first time since 1990.

At first, a boulder of grief lodged under my clavicle when August began: things were not what they had been, or should be, or would be again. In Connecticut I leaned against a tree that shaded me when I read my first Nancy Drew. I photographed the weathered boards of my first pony barn to remember the texture of the two-hundred year old cedar. I ran my hand along the settled, lichen-grey stone wall I watched built, stone by stone, when I was six. I visited my small foot, imprinted in cement, 1964.

Who would remember the stories?

Ahead, there are no lacrosse schedules, student art shows, parents weekends.

Everyone now works the day after Thanksgiving.

The boulder grew unbearable as I followed the moving van out the driveway. Swallowing was impossible. Nothing would ever be the same. I steered the car north and didn’t know who to call.

But here’s this:

The words of 86 year-old Triathlon athlete and nun, Sister Madonna Buder.

“You carry your attitude with you…you either achieve or you self-destruct. If you think positively, you can even turn a negative into a positive.”

I have to reconstruct as time and life changes me. Positively and with purpose. Otherwise  I would never realize the potential of the next day, of myself and the potential of my family and friends. And that, I believe, would be a waste.

As I put away the beach towels, the old flip flops, the worn picnic blanket I think to myself September will be my month — my own reconstruction time, sharpened pencils, another quiet birthday, a wonderful engagement party is on the calendar, there will be travel and visits with good friends. Soon, I begin a new workshop in Seattle that pushes me to the next step.

A new type of promise this fall.

I sip my sunset-colored wine and watch the sky begin to deepen. I think of all the new opportunities. A fireball of excitement warms me from head to toe. The boulder dissolves.

All good.

SkyChunk

Cuttyhunk Island sunset, August, 2016

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