Friday, November 4, 2011

The Temptation of Tulips

Today was a lovely afternoon – one of those perfect autumn days when the sun is shining, the air is crisp, and it just feels good to be alive. Beautiful!

Taking advantage of the weather’s cooperation and some unexpected free time in my schedule, Hubby and I decided to work in the flower bed in front of our house. Well, okay, to be brutally honest, I decided and he reluctantly agreed to help.

Actually, I had to play my trump card to convince him: yesterday was my birthday and Hubby sort of offered to plant tulip bulbs, and three mums. Although I’m not much of a gardener, I do enjoy perennials that come back every year, at least in theory. In particular, my chrysanthemums never seem to survive our Midwest winters very well. But I keep trying!

While planting the mixed-color tulip bulbs, I couldn’t help but think about my mother. She absolutely loved tulips, especially red ones. One fall, she planted some 150 bulbs, half red and half yellow. Mom happened to have a bevy of squirrels in her neighborhood, but they always kept her entertained.

However, the next spring, she was thoroughly disgusted with those squirrels. They managed to dig up and consume every single red tulip bulb. None of the yellow ones, mind you, just the red!

Undaunted, Mom again planted red and yellow bulbs that fall. This time, however, she generously coated each and every one with hot Tobasco sauce. She waited for spring that year in anticipation of a bounty of glorious tulips in both colors.

Every day, she marched outside to watch the tender young tulip leaves poke through the dirt and begin to grow.

Every day, she watched the tiny buds develop.

Every day, she waited with bated breath to see a miniscule hint of color.

Finally, one day she trekked outside to see the tulips had burst into bloom. All yellow!

Philosophically, Mom shrugged her shoulders and said, “Well, I guess the squirrels need some help getting through the winter, too.” After that, every year she continued to plant red and yellow tulips. And every year, the squirrels continued to eat the red ones . . . and frolicked in her yard to say thank you.

So that’s where my thoughts carried me during our afternoon of digging, planting, and watering. It felt as if my mother was working right beside me, even though she’s been gone ten years. As she taught me, I’ll wait in anticipation for spring, when we’ll find out if my mums come back and if our pesky squirrels found the tulip bulbs.

Who knows if they’ll have a preference for our red bulbs, too?

What memories do you have about fall chores? Do they ever make you reminisce about your loved ones?

I’d love to hear about your experiences.


Karen said...

Funny, funny story about your mom's tulip bulbs! And I'm glad that you enjoy her presence when these situations arise. My mom died ten years ago, too, and I do enjoy the feeling of having her nearby when I do certain things. I can hear her voice and laugh as I smile and enjoy the task even more. Thanks so much for this lovely post.

Beth (Elizabeth) LaMie said...

I'm delighted that you could relate to that story. It still amazes me that after ten years I continue to tear articles out of the paper to show her, then remember she is gone. But I wouldn't miss that feeling of connection for the world.