The Gift of Flowers
The flowers first appeared in my yard, covering the hill behind my house, in the spring fifteen years ago. I presumed they’d spread from the cliffs and highlands above my property, and didn’t find it strange how they popped up seemingly overnight. I didn’t know what to expect, the first time I saw them. They started out looking like pinpricks of color dotting the emerging green. But in a week they erupted in masses of azure florets and saturated the entire landscape. In two weeks it was like living beside a cloud of incandescent blue.
None of my neighbors had them. The forget-me-nots, as I later discovered them to be, grew only in the exact bounds of my property lines, without a fence to guide them. I joked about it with my kids. Joelle, who was eleven at the time, told me, “I dreamed about a lady floating over our hill; she was wearing a long white dress and she wanted me to come fly with her. She said she gave us the flowers, because she likes us.” I was more concerned at the time about my daughter having bad dreams, and not telling me about them. “Oh, it wasn’t scary,” she told me, drinking her milk early in the morning before she and her sister took off for the rural school bus stop twenty minutes away. “She’s nice.”
My youngest, my son Jonathan, over the years told me about seeing strange people in our kitchen now and then, especially in the afternoon after school, while I was still at work. Said they were dressed in old-fashioned suits and long dresses and wore hats. He said they never turned around until an instant before they completely disappeared; but this didn’t scare Jon at all. Kids have active imaginations, I thought at the time. He also mentioned seeing cats and dogs and even deer walk through our walls as if not even knowing walls were there. He also claimed to have seen the lady in the white dress; he told me one Saturday–when he was on his way out the door for Little League practice–that she floats around the hill behind our house all the time. “Haven’t you seen her?” he asked as his coach honked at him from the driveway. Once I heard the front door close after him, I hurried to the kitchen window and peered out; I didn’t see anything but blue jays, cardinals, and squirrels competing for the bird food I’d poured into the feeder hanging from an old oak tree at the crest of the hill. The gold finches had their own feeder with a protective grill, and were off under a different tree, happily eating thistle seed. It was bright and sunny, and nothing seemed out of the ordinary.
At night, I admit, sometimes I’m nervous. There are moments when I think I can feel people watching me; when my kids were around during their teenage years they kept me distracted and the anxious feelings were always buried by the daily routine that began anew each morning. But lately, since Jonathan moved out for college a year ago, I’ve been sensing–I don’t know–my arm-hairs stand up once in a while and I get the urge to spin around and confront something, someone, but there’s never anyone there. Our two cats, well Joelle and Bettina’s cats, they sometimes stop what they’re doing–chasing one another, grooming, batting toys–and stare up at the ceiling, or at a point high on a wall. I never can figure out what the heck they’re looking at.
Joelle’s in Florida; she always wanted to live there. She’s got a great job and she’s engaged. I talk to her every week. She asks me, each time we talk, “Are you okay, Mom? Any nightmares, strange stuff going on?” I laugh at her, and tell her, “No, but it always seems like there’s something there, just at the edge of perception, just out of reach, and I almost start to get scared, but then the house or the yard lightens up again, and I feel such relief!”
“They’re nice,” she says. “They don’t want to scare you,” she usually adds, or words to that effect. I ask her, “Who’s nice?” and I laugh, but I know–sort of, around the fringe of my understanding–what she’s talking about. We always change the subject then. Is it possible, I’ve wondered, that they’ve been protecting us, whoever, whatever “they” are? A single mom, raising three kids, working two jobs, going back to school, and all three of those babies turned out successful, healthy, happy. Even if they’ve moved away, but what did I raise ’em for except to leave the nest and fly.
It’s April now, and I see the emerald-green mounds of forget-me-not leaves just beginning to emerge.