Monday, April 20, 2009

Time Travel

Today in the kitchen i look up from my work in the sink and see a single red tulip that i have placed into a glass because the stem broke and it would no longer fit into the vase with the others.

It captures me. I go back in time forty years.

I am 10 years old. We are living in Virginia and it is a glorious spring day, one of the first of the year. I am out in the yard, lying on my back beneath our flowering crab apple tree with my right arm extended up into the air. I am hoping that if i lie still long enough, one of the chickadees peeping around in the tree will come and land on my finger. I read about a girl in one of my books who did this. That the book was fiction does not deter me.

After a few minutes, bored and birdless, i turn my head to the right and see the most beautiful and unusual red flower i have ever seen. It's huge and its red petals are spread completely open in the bright spring sun.

I leap up, scattering the chickadees from the tree and run into the house to find someone to share my flower with.

My father, responding to my excitement, comes out and looks at the flower and agrees that yes, it is the most beautiful red flower he has ever seen. He goes inside to get his camera and comes back outside with his camera and tripod. While i cavort around him doing a spring dance for the flower, he takes a picture of it.

I run back inside and get my mother, so that she can see the world's most beautiful red flower too.

When she sees it she says "Oh for god's sake Bill, it's just a tulip," and goes back inside.

Deflated and sheepish we move on to doing something else.

For years, that slide was a family joke. The time my dad took a picture of "just a tulip."

I go back to the sink.


The Real Mother Hen said...

That's tulip? Wow, pretty.

(The only tulips I have seen have their petals standing up, ya know, as if guarding some treasures or what. I have not seen a full bloom before. Plus my flower knowledge is bad actually.)

What were you cooking btw?

flutter said...

this just sucked the air out of me

Anonymous said...

It may have been just a tulip, but it was the prettiest red tulip EVAH!

There was a Tulip exhibit at Smith College when I was there last month. My memory is not exact, but I think it said that in the 16th century, tulips were so valued that one bulb cost as much as a house.

I hope your father gave your mother bouquets of tulips every year.

Mrs. Chili said...

Wow, Meno. Are you SURE you didn't grow up in MY house?

Magpie said...

That photo is lovely & luminous.

lu said...

I love all the details you include, I totally remember times like this; being caught up and sharing a magical moment, only to have it dismissed by some outsider.

I'm only now beginning to see it as an archeological dig--which allows me to take back a bit of the magic.

meno said...

mother hen, yep, that's a fully opened tulip. they close back up at night. I was making nettle soup. Pictures of that later.

flutter, the memory sucked the air out of me for a minute too.

de, i wish my dad had that much gumption. But we were both abashed, me because i was 10, and him...who knows why.

mrs. chili, sounds familiar huh? I'm sorry.

magpie, thank you. I should try and dig up that old slide my dad took someday.

lu, Looking back, i can remember the magic instead of the shame. But it took some years passing to be able to do that. I like your archeological dig reference.

Scott from Oregon said...

And I am reminded of the planting tulips joke my Pops told me when I was a wee teen...

Bob said...

it is a shame that parents forget how magical the world is. think how much a better world it would be if we didn't.

furiousBall said...

wow that's a gorgeous tulip

Anonymous said...

jeez, it's a wonder you survived your childhood with any compassion left in you.

you should send her some tulips for mother's day, but then, that's the day we show our appreciation, so maybe not.

beautiful tulip, I'm all about red.

Clowncar said...

That was such a compact, evocative narrative. So much stuff packed into so few words - I went back in time with you. I really envy your ability to do that.

And yeah, that archeological dig reference of lu's is very fitting. Excavating relics from the past, dusting them off, holding them up to the light.

Brad said...

I think one of the best parts about childhood is the very blurred line between fiction and non-fiction. The line fixes itself soon enough. To bad we can't stay that way. Sounds like your Mom could use a good dose of childhood.

peevish said...

I think I like your Dad more than I like your Mom. And I probably shouldn't say that, not knowing them.

meno said...

scott, and you're not going to tell the joke? You're just going to leave us hanging? Man, that's cold.

bob, it would be a better world. This is a great lesson in how not to be.

furious, it is pretty.

holly, i think my mother unintentionally provided me with an excellent negative object lesson. "How Not to Parent, Volume I."

clowncar, thank you for your kind words. Of course. i look back on it and see the editing that i should have done....

brad, it seems that anything is possible at that age. Magic still might be real.

peevish, no, that's okay. He's a sweet man and she's.....not.

The Real Mother Hen said...

I went to the florist today, just to see tulips.

Thanks for sharing such a beautiful flower with us :)

caro said...

Kamikaze attacks from the past. :)

Lynn said...

Your mom sure knew how to suck the fun out of life : ( Lucky for you, your dad knew how to enjoy it : )

QT said...

I am happy to say that my mother was the polar opposite of yours when I was growing up.

I'd say we both turned out pretty nice that picture, and there are no tulips up here yet...

Dick said...

I like your tulip photo. Ours are close to opening which is a good thing since the Tulip Festival is 2/3 through it's scheduled time.

It's too bad that your Mom couldn't see the tulip through a child's eye and enjoy the wonder of it. But I do think she is the one to feel sorry for, not being able to experience that magic. I am not a gardener but I enjoy the look even of dandelions, although I sometimes wish there were not so many of them in my yard.

egan said...

Tulips and dahlias are up there in my favorite flower departments.

tt said...

I'm thinking we must be related. That sounds EXACTLY like something my Mom would have said! I 'once' brought her a bouquet of pretty flowers I had picked and presented them to her with a huge grin....her response..." those are weeds...get them out of the'll sneeze."
pfft....kill joy! Never got her flowers again...still haven't :)

Cheesy said...

I think you should send DAD the bouquet!

I love your Dad a little right now! And your story brought visions of a childhood mem of sitting under a filbert tree during a lazy summer day in Jersey many moons ago.. thank you for that!

Lynnea said...

I love the image of you dancing around happily while your father set up his tripod.

Interesting that it became a family joke. I wonder if the joke leaned toward how 'dumb' you and your father acted (though I would never agree) or how 'dumb' your mom acted? Probably not the latter, sadly.

meno said...

mother hen, i buy lots of tulips this time of year, as they become really cheap! Tulips and daffodils!

caro, snuck right up on me it did.

lynn, yeah i think that is her mutant super power, fun-sucking.

qt, i'm glad about your mother. And you're right, we're both pretty nice.

dick, it has been a cold spring, so the tulips are late-ish this year. You are right about whom to feel sorry for.

egan, my dad used to grow dahlias. They are lovely.

tt, i'm glad it was the last time you brought her flowers.

cheesy, now that's a great idea. There was so much spring-ness in a climate like that, where there were real, distinct season. It was a joyful time.

maggie, one MUST dance in the presence of the world's most beautiful flower. And the joke was on my father, and me. Sadly.

Liv said...

i wish i had just a tulip.

i think similar things about the dozens of fat, bushy, blue hydrangeas i carry into the house.

Anonymous said...

meno, I'm with CC--a beautiful, heartfelt narrative summed up in a compact, elegant package. Like that gorgeous flower. *S* I've always loved tulips. Especially red ones. Thank you for sharing the memory.

Robin said...

geez, who pee'd in your mom's cheerios?

how sad to not see the beauty in a single flower (of any kind) or a child's wonder.

your dad truly deserves bouquet of red tulips for seeing that and making most of that memory so sweet.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Your mother was wrong, of course. No flower is "just" anything, nor is a child. Both are amazing and wondrous, worthy of acclaim and should be celebrated and remembered as they are before time changes them.

Maddy said...

There is no such thing as 'just a tulip'in my book.

PerplxinTexan♥ said...

For a moment there I almost asked "really?!" ..hahha foolish me. There's no such thing as time travel except with crack...or in OZ.....or with Tulips apparently

Amazing post :)

colleen said...

This story has a dream feel to it, almost as if I feel it happened to me. It is every kid's story in a way. And today I did look into the center of bright red tulip Mandala.

meno said...

liv, well hi there. I love hydrangeas, except for the earwigs.

irrelephant, thank you. Now i want to go back and edit it. Writing, prose, poetry or code, is never done.

robin, her cheerios were perpetually peed in. You made me smile with that reference.

hearts, i know that now, thankfully. At the time i was ashamed.

maddy, i agree. Each spring, a miracle appears from under ground.

perplexin, yes, it's true, the secret of time travel is contained in tulips. And thank you.

colleen, i actually stood there, in my kitchen, but far away for a few moments. It was so pretty.

Mrs4444 said...

This is fantastic, Meno; just love the way you took me back with you.

I love tulips.

Mels Place in Big Bear said...

I like tulips also. And your two lips - that tell us marvelous stories!

Daisy said...

What flutter said.


And hydrangeas and earwigs? What? Ick.

luckyzmom said...

Beautiful tulip. Ugly reaction from your mother.

sari said...

It's beautiful, not just a tulip, but a bit of magic caught in an instant.