Monday, May 19, 2008
Yes, I can remember back that far
When I was a little girl, my sisters and I used to love exploring in the backyard, and into the woods that stretched beyond our backyard. The Hundred Acre Wood, we used to call it. It was the property owned by Ray and Hazel Burgett, and they never seemed to mind four girls running along the paths, seeking new wildflowers and frightening squirrels. It was the best place to play hide & seek. It was also the best place to pick lily of the valley.
Each year for her birthday, on May 26, my mom would tell each of us that all she wanted was a bouquet of lily of the valley, and all four of us would dutifully head into the woods to pick it for her, following the instructions Mrs. Burgett had given us - grasp the stems down close to the ground and pull straight up, so you hear it give way with a "pop". It's a sound, and smell, that is so vivid to me still today.
Mom would gather up her bouquets into one big one, and it would be placed lovingly in water within her antique vase, her "buttons and bows" vase she called it, remembering the name of the pattern. The flowers were special to her, and so was the vase. And it would take center stage on the mantle, the scent of the flowers wafting through the living room of our home.
In time, the Burgetts moved, and my sister Jenn bought their little cottage in the woods, and along with it acres of land and some of the best lily of the valley around. Even when I was in college, and well past, I still headed to the woods to pick Mom's birthday present. There wasn't anything that made her happier.
So imagine my surprise last year this time when I got out of my car and smelled that familiar, heady scent. I must have looked like a crazed lunatic, one warm May night, being led in the moonlight by my nose until the snow-white flowers came into view. Right there, on the edge of the property where my building stands, is a small patch of lily of the valley ... memories, growing right there in the dirt.
I still pick them for Mom. I think she'd be pleased that I enjoy them in my own home these days. I know she'd be pleased at my choice of vase to hold them - a gift from Patrick, my best friend, my constant, my rock in the winds of life. It's not buttons & bows; it's more like love & pottery. Like my mother before me, I have a vase that's special, and flowers that are, too ... and a soul filled with memories that pop up unexpectedly sometimes, when you grasp them near the ground and urge them to come to life.