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Mayflowers: Floral Memories

At the end of my driveway I have a brick mailbox with a planter on each side. Every spring I fill the planters with beautiful flowers that I buy at a local garden store. They brighten up the front of my house from summer into fall. But my husband had lost his job. When spring came last year, I knew we couldn’t have any unnecessary expenses, including flowers. One person even asked whether, considering our financial stress, I would have my lovely flowers again. I said, “no.” Then after a minute, “yes.”

I recalled that before the first frost the previous year, a neighbor told me how to retrieve the seeds from the dying blooms, dry them and store them for spring. Luckily, I had done just that. I planted those seeds in early spring last year, and they grew and blossomed in May. They were my most beautiful flowers ever.  

—Regina Richardson, Springfield, Mo.

Many flowers bloom in south Alabama in May, including the wild seven sisters roses along the north edge of our farm. High school students sometimes came and cut bouquets to decorate for school dances. My brother Buddy transplanted some of the roses south of our house, down in the pines where he and his fiancée planned to build their home after he returned from Vietnam. Buddy didn’t survive the war. He died in May 1968. When I see seven sisters roses blooming in May, I always think of our big, tough Marine tenderly planting roses for his future bride.

—Olga Jane Scozzafava, Carleton, Neb.

A year after I retired, my husband and I bought a little two-bedroom bungalow near the neighborhood where we raised our kids. We were forewarned of a little blond girl who was allowed to roam freely on our block. One day as I waited for the power company, the angel-faced little girl knocked on our door.

“I came to play with your kids,” she announced.

“I have no kids here,” I said.

“Well, when you get some, I’ll be back,” she said. Off she ran.

For the next 14 years, that lovely child would come to my house. She played with my granddaughter and my dog. She helped paint the garage. One day, she picked a bouquet of dandelions for me because she saw me picking a few large, bright ones to place in a bouquet of flowers from the grocery store. I’d tell her about the first time I met her, admitting that sometimes I’d wish she’d go away. Still, she could always think of some little thing to do. When my husband died, she came to see if I was all right.

Since she graduated from high school, I have lost track of that delightful child. But I remember, with tears in my eyes, that every May Day a paper basket hung on my front door with the note: “Guess what. I did come back to play with your kids.”

—Gloria J. Gorrell, Rockford, Ill.

In the 1950s, on our family homestead in northern Minnesota, my little brother and I searched swamp edges for mayflowers, swamp still high with meltwater. It was our first excursion of the season, a precursor to climbing maple trees and picking wild berries. On south-facing hillsides, above the swamp, we gathered bouquets for our mother and sisters. The water was a powerful draw, and often we’d forget our wilted clumps as we cupped pollywogs in our hands and, barefoot, chased bullfrogs until we were drenched.

Homeward bound we’d stop at the old machine used to reap and bind oats. The best mayflowers clustered around the sickle bar. Hunched beneath the reel paddles, my brother and I pinched the little purple flower stems until our interest waned. Again we’d forget our bouquets as we examined wren eggs in the twine box, mama hovering above, diving at our tousled hair, scolding in high-pitched chirps.

Today, mayflowers still make my heart sing. They announce a new season of songbirds, sunrises and wood ticks. In their myriad colors they bring joy to my granddaughters as we walk our garden meadow gathering bouquets of yellows, purples and whites for Mommy and Nana. But perhaps most, they keep me young as I guide the little girls along the lane, meander through the woods and smile as they reach through woven wire to poach my neighbor’s mayflowers. And I smile as the 3-year-old sets her bunch aside to coax a sluggish ant with a twig.

—Wendell Affield, Shevlin, Minn.

The AARP Bulletin’s What I Really Know column comes from our readers. Each month we solicit personal essays on a selected topic and post some of our favorites in print and online.

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