Wednesday, May 4, 2011
"I drove to grandma's house to dig up some of the daffodils for you. I'm here now but it looks like the realtor has mowed them all down." He was talking in a voice you use when you call to give somebody bad news. Gentle, like he was expecting me to burst into tears.
I've written about it before. When the snow has melted and the temperatures are starting to warm up a little. The ground is still all brown, the trees still bare. No matter how many years I garden, I always worry that that nature just stopped working. That my garden has up and died. But then I remind myself about my grandfather's daffodils.
All my life the long driveway in front of my grandmother's ranch style Memphis home has been lined on both sides with bright yellow daffodils. Each year when they'd bloom, my grandmother would remind us all that my then deceased grandfather planted them years ago. She referred to them randomly as daffodils, jonquils or buttercups depending on her mood. My grandfather died when I was around five but for me, his memory has lived on in the things he planted. That tiny pecan tree now litters my grandmother's and her neighbor's backyards with huge delicious pecans every year. A houseplant my grandmother somehow managed to keep alive in a giant pot by the living room window, its leafy vines climbing up and down the 5 foot stake in the center of the pot. It finally died when my grandmother's dementia caused her to forget to water it, but not before my mother took several cuttings from it which are now big beautiful plants in their own right. And the daffodils by the driveway.
My grandmother's house was placed on the market for sale a couple of weeks ago. My brother and his wife dug up some of the daffodils and mailed them to me. They have survived for over 30 years and I wanted them to live on in my garden reminding me of my grandparents and giving me stories to tell folks every year when they bloom.
Opening the box of bulbs my brother mailed me was surreal. I never gardened when I lived in Tennessee. I only know Illinois dirt, grey, clay, almost ash colored. But this dirt holding together severely compacted clumps of daffodil bulbs was light and fluffy, and more red colored. It reminded me of milk chocolate. I was more taken aback by how different, how foreign and beautiful the dirt looked to me than I was the daffodil bulbs. For some reason it intensified the disconnect I feel from my hometown and from my family.
I planted the now dry daffodil bulbs in three different places in my front garden and as I poured the Memphis dirt on top of the bulbs it looked even more red against the backdrop of my Illinois dirt. And then I noticed a small worm that had somehow survived the trip from Memphis squirming around in the dry dirt. I covered the bulbs and lone Memphis worm and watered them.
I am already looking forward to next spring. From what I've heard the daffodils may not bloom next year because they were cut down in the middle of their blooming cycle but hopefully they will the year after. I have faith and I am willing to wait for them as long as it takes.