As winter dragged on and on this year, I developed an irresistible craving for flowers. I fantasized about petunias and daisies, about hanging baskets and terra cotta planters, about a yard filled with butterflies and hummingbirds.
Now that spring is here, I stop at the garden store every time I leave the house. I stroll through aisle after aisle of perennials and annuals, drooling over vivid shades of purple, red, and pink. And every time I stop at the garden store, I bring home a new flower. (Sometimes a new spider, too.)
My carpets are tracked with dirt, half of my fingernails are broken, and I’ve run out of pots and baskets. I might regret my spring flower frenzy when the yard turns hot and humid this summer, when the mosquitoes and black widows arrive and the flowers wilt every afternoon. Or when whatever is eating the pansies starts eating everything else.
But for now, I’m happy.
It snowed at the beach on Friday, just in time for my annual weekend with the writers.
We stayed at a hotel on the Virginia Beach oceanfront, where we laughed and ate and sat around in our pajamas as we read to each other and critiqued chapters from works-in-progress.
All the while, it was so cold outside that Friday’s snow couldn’t melt.
Saturday afternoon I spent some time on our icy balcony, trying to photograph cormorants, seagulls, and dolphins.
Clouds raveled and gathered again, the sun came and went, and the ocean flickered from gray to green to blue.
All day Saturday the surface looked silky and smooth, but Sunday morning’s high tide rumpled it into restless wrinkles.
After I got home, I felt restless, too. Uncertain of how to proceed from here. The weekend was so perfect, and the house was so warm, and I was indescribably happy.
How could I ever want more than what I have right now? More than these comforts and luxuries I am so grateful to have known?
Horses were the only pets forbidden on our acres. My oldest sister tested Daddy’s rule from every conceivable angle, but was no match for his resolve. Leaving the battle in her capable hands, I consoled my own longing with Breyer collectibles. My herd grew with each Christmas and birthday, multiplied between as my allowance allowed.
I didn’t play with my horses as I played with other toys. Instead I lavished them with furniture polish and imagination, displaying them on shelves high beyond the reach of rowdy kittens and teething puppies.
I left them behind when I moved into college, but Mother knew better. She waited until I graduated and married, until my husband and I bought a house of our own. Then she forwarded the herd to Virginia, where I welcomed them with tears and furniture polish, with new shelves beyond the reach of rowdy kittens and teething puppies.
And last fall my oldest sister sent her horses to join the herd.
She never knew, until a chance conversation brought it up, that I had coveted her horses in our youth. As she has real horses now, and as she understands how much I treasure my plastic herd, she packed up Misty and a Clydesdale and gave them to me. So we have added two to the throng, though an unpracticed eye might never notice the newcomers.
Several years ago we purchased a set of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer toys. We bought them on a whim, because we both have fond childhood memories of watching the animated Christmas special. We didn’t know that our dog, Indigo, would claim the toys for her own. They became her favorite part of Christmas, and ours. She knew what box they were stored in, in the attic, and visited them as often as allowed during the intervals between holidays. Each November, she danced underfoot as we brought the box downstairs and unpacked “her” toys. Then she climbed onto the couch and stared at them for hours on end. Her first task every morning was to check on the toys, and she begged for us to make them sing over and over during the day.
Last year, my mother died in October. Selfish in my grief, I skipped Christmas altogether. I didn’t decorate or buy gifts. I didn’t send cards or listen to carols, and I complained about the month-long marathon of televised nostalgia.
During the year of my cancelled Christmas, Indigo aged dramatically. Her hearing loss advanced to complete deafness, and an insidious onset of distraction and anxiety altered her personality. So I shouldn’t have been surprised, today, by her muted reaction to the Rudolph toys. She danced a slow, stiff dance as I placed them on the mantel, wagged her tail as I activated them each in turn, and then wandered away in search of a warm place to nap. She has not returned to the toys, and I have not tried to remind her of them.
It seems that this part of Christmas must move into the past and take its place among all of my other holiday memories. I’m sad to lose such a simple source of joy, but I’m happy to say it’s not completely gone. Two years ago, we spent an afternoon filming Indigo with her toys, and I have this video to treasure and share…
Today I took a walk with sister-friend and fellow poet Kay Middleton. We walked further together than I would have walked alone, and I’m grateful for the extra miles. We sat on the beach a while, before leaving, where it was very windy and very sunny. Now I have sand in my pockets and twigs in my hair and a hint of sunburn–a happy trio of souvenirs.