I’ve always had a daffodil budget. No matter if I was in college counting pennies, or if I was living in luxury (tell me again when that will be?), whenever I’ve seen the first daffodils of the year, I buy them.
Mother grew pansies and petunias, but those weren’t really the type of flower to cut. But when I’d spend a Springtime week in North Alabama, Grandmother allowed me to pick all the daffodils I could hold.
After I filled the vases, I’d poke the jonquils in jelly jars. The house was so stinky sharp with daffodil aroma it would make me sneeze. Growing in thick clumps on both sides of the long, winding gravel drive, the flower that announces Spring had multiplied over the years into massive walls of sunshine yellow. My poetry loving Granddaddy helped me memorize Wordsworth’s “Daffodils.”
My must-have springtime treat is often an entire potted plant, and other times, a cut bouquet. It doesn’t matter, because my rule is, I have to buy them. Snitching flowers from a neighbor’s yard is frowned upon, I’ve learned.
I’ve never been able to grow the trumpeting flower myself because my yard lacked bright sun, but now that a couple of hurricanes have taken care of the pesky shade trees, this may be my year to plant my own bulbs.
With snow still on the ground in Chicago one year, I found the season’s first daffodils wrapped in brown paper at a street vendor’s kiosk. I took them to my hotel room and stuck them in a cup of water. The day I flew home, bad weather delayed flights and resulted in high tension and frazzled workers. Knowing the bouquet would be crushed on the plane unless I somehow managed to hold them for the entire flight, I decided to give a daffodil to everyone who was working hard to get me home. Moving through security or a luggage checkpoint, I doled out daffodils to strangers who were just trying to get through their shift. Their faces rotated through stress, surprise, suspicion and then, sweetness. One woman sweeping the floor shortened the stem, tucked it behind her ear and said, “Now I’m ready to do the hula!”
It’s both haunting and sweet to drive down a rural road and see a grassy spot where a house once stood, and all that is left are small bursts of daffodils someone planted long ago. Houses and families move on, but the flowers remain to remind us of who they were. Someone lived there who took time to plant rough dirty bulbs with hopes they would produce something beautiful for their kitchen table or to share with a friend.
It’s amazing how a fragrance can zip you back through time and take you to a place you otherwise would have never remembered. It’s funny, because I don’t even like the color yellow all that much, and there are other flowers that smell sweeter, but the connection with grandparents, a poem, an airport adventure, and even a leisurely drive through the country, all make me love daffodils. And I once loved a blond headed boy who lived on Jonquil Lane, so perhaps that’s part of the sweetness as well.
This story first appeared in AL.com newspapers in Mobile, Birmingham and Huntsville, Alabama.