When I was a little girl, on the first day of May every year, I would gather wildflowers from the sides of the drainage ditch next to my house, wrap the stems in a bunch of wet paper towels and some tinfoil, and sneak across the street to Catherine and Leon’s house. I would put the flowers down on the elderly couple’s doormat, ring the bell, and run away as fast as I could.
Every year. I never forgot.
I can’t remember where I got the idea. My mom? My sister? Someone, somewhere, told me that was what you did on the first day of May, to celebrate spring. A gift and a practical joke all rolled up in one. What kid could resist?
Some years there were better flowers – years like this one’s been, when the winter was rainy as all get out, and the bluebonnets and daisies answered the call to show off. Some years, it was a straggly handful of henbit, purple verbena, and some rain lilies that wilted almost before the door opened. It didn’t matter. Every year, hiding in the bushes, I would hear the door open, and Catherine would cry out. “Why, Leon! Come and see! Someone’s left flowers here! I wonder who it could have been?”
I loved those neighbors. Their door and refrigerator was always open to a latchkey kid who had dropped her key somewhere (again), and their candy dish was always full of those peculiar delights: Atkinson’s peanut butter bars. To this day, all I have to do is smell one of those candies, and I am six years old again, my teeth stuck together, listening to Leon playing in the living room with his local wash tub band.
Catherine and Leon were old way back then, and they’ve been gone for decades. But I remember them. On top of my computer desk is Catherine’s favorite vase, given to me after her funeral — an elegant, peach-tinted blown-glass cone, filled with dried flowers all year long.
And every year, on May 1, I wonder: Will there be a barefoot, laughing neighbor girl when I’m old, who hides in the bushes and laughs while I open the door and shout for my husband to come and see the bouquet?
Happy Spring, Writer Friends.