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The Black Tulip

The Black Tulip – You know who you are Tom C.!

 Mother’s Day is coming up so I thought I would tell you a story that includes my mom.

Mom loved flowers. With five kids and a husband who insisted on driving his mower fast and straight, never around anything, flowers were something she always fought to save. She didn’t have a lot of time to spend in the yard, so she planted flowers that could fend for themselves; lilies of the valley, crocus, daffodils, tulips, all plants that could bloom, die down and come back the next year.

For a couple of years she favored tulips. Somehow she acquired a bulb for a black tulip, and she babied that plant like a sixth child. It took a couple of years for it to really kick in, but finally one spring day, a bloom bud appeared.

She walked out every day to check the progress, pulled the weeds around it and probably even talked to it. She was so filled with anticipation of the opening of the black tulip. Her red tulips and her yellow tulips were lovely. She had some frilly tulips and some she called parrot tulips, but the black tulip…that was going to be a wonder.

I happened to be in the kitchen with Mom the day Tommy our next door neighbor kid, came to the back door. Mom welcomed him casually as she did all the neighborhood kids and then, a half second later she realized that in his grubby little hands, he was holding up to her the entire plant that was her precious black tulip.

“I brought you a flower,” he said proudly.

The bloom had opened overnight, and young Tommy had picked it just for her, along with leaves, roots and, for good measure, some surrounding soil.

He looked a little like a TV commercial for laundry detergent as he presented his gift. My mother took a brief moment, finally smiled, reached to receive her prize and said, “Why, thank you, Tommy, what a very special tulip this is.”

That doomed black tulip had pride of place in a vase on our dining table for the couple of days that cut flowers can survive, then it was no more.

Mom appeared to be unflappable through five kids and all their neighborhood cohorts, but we couldn’t have been easy. In spite of worn bare base paths in the front yard, jars of tadpoles on the back porch, broken windows, and the sometimes frightening screams of children playing kick the can in the dark, she always liked and welcomed the neighborhood kids and was especially proud of the adults our neighborhood produced.

Eventually she became an excellent gardener with a yard that looked like a city park, but as far as I know, she never again had a black tulip.

Tom grew to be a talented musician and actor and a devoted family man, and he brought his wife and kids to visit her a couple of years before she died. She was thrilled by that visit…to think that when he came such a distance to see his family, he thought to drop in on her.

That was the kind of person she was to her kids and the neighborhood kids and to everyone who knew her…a person to be remembered.

I just miss her.

Happy Mother’s Day to you all…the moms who have been and who will be, and to the daughters and sons and friends who love you.

1 Comment

  1. I wish this had a “Love” button so that I could spam it.

    I wish that I had known her. I know that I would have adored her.

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