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.
Kingsland Kitchen, Portland, Oregon