Spring flowers remind me of spring cleaning, which reminds me of organizing closets, which always leads me to think about the days not so long ago when I would rotate the big hand-me-down box from one son to the other. As I pulled clothes out and held them up, my youngest eyed a green shirt his big brother had worn a couple of years earlier. The enthusiastic three year old jumped around the room and cried out, “A green shirt? I’ve always wanted a green shirt!” Next came shouts of joy when he saw a pair of blue pants. “I love blue pants – Yay!” Bless his heart full of sunshine, before he was older and wiser, a box of hand-me-down clothes seemed like Christmas morning with ham in the oven.
Since boys can be rough on clothes, there weren’t many things that survived the transition to child #2. The clothing that usually held up the best was the Sunday big-church clothes. With little wear and tear, and more cuteness per square inch, the tiny blazers and bow ties were always a good investment, and a steal when compared to what I would have spent on a little girl. When my eldest would question why he had to wear such a dressy get-up, I told him it was his “Bruce Wayne” costume – Batman’s true persona. Since he was usually in some sort of a cape and mask the rest of the week, this seemed plausible, and on his way into church one morning, whispered to his Sunday School teacher, “You don’t know my secret identity.”
One year, after unpacking a much-loved, but barely worn bright red blazer, I saw a huge mass of gorgeous red tulips along the bluff of Mobile Bay. I knew instantly, this was the perfect spot to bring little guy to take his photograph, perfectly posed in his “new” red blazer. I imagined how precious he would be, standing with the tulips hitting him just below his little shoulders and the red petals matching his coat and clip-on tie that was decorated with yellow dump trucks.
The photo had to be taken at a time of day when there would be no shadows and my son would be well-fed, well-rested and in good spirits. The next afternoon, we were busy running errands, but I made a mental note to try and take cutie-pie to the flower bed the following day, except when the time rolled around, it was raining. The day after that, Junior was in the middle of a very long and much needed nap, and after that . . . well, after that, I had things to do and just forgot.
When I finally remembered the photo that would have certainly made the cover of, “Toddler Today,” the tulips were dropping their petals and didn’t look like such a picturesque scene anymore. By the next year, the coat was too small, and anyway, the flower bed had been changed to pink.
It’s hard – no, impossible, for parents to do everything we want to do with our children, and although I was blessed to be able to spend as much time with them as I did, it’s still funny how I can always think of one more thing I wish we had done.
Twelve years have passed, and this year, the bed overlooking the Bay was filled with purple tulips. It was my annual reminder to take time for the little things, like stopping to smell the flowers, because tomorrow, they’ll be gone. Both the boys and the tulips.
This story first appeared in my column, “Southern with a Gulf Coast accent” which can be found in the Gulf Coast Newspapers.