This story about yellow flowers makes me look like the Good Guy, but that’s not why I am telling it. I’m telling it to inspire you to go ahead and do that amazing thing you know you want to because 40 years from now (maybe 42) you are going to be proud of your younger, more amazing self.
It was 42 years ago. OH MY GOD. Who was even alive 42 years ago?
Well, I was. In fact, I was 16. I had just gotten my driver’s licence so I was not only 16, I was invincible. I owned the world and you, I’m sorry to say, did not.
It was April 9, 1974. My father’s birthday. My mother, God bless her, had everything ready. She partied on a very limited budget in those days (seven children kind of impose that on you), but she was ready. April in New England meant Spring. She had planned a birthday party full of yellow flowers and springtime celebration. She had bought three beautiful pots of yellow mums as the centerpiece of the event and Dad’s only gift (he loved flowers unreasonably and adorably). She had hidden them out in the sunroom because they would be safe there and Dad would never find them.
Except for one thing. That year we had a sudden cold snap. Overnight between April 8th and 9th, the temperature in the sunroom plummeted below freezing and when Mom went out (so confidently!) to bring the flowers in, she was stunned and crestfallen to find them frozen and forlorn. She first thought desperately that she might be able to save them, but once inside the warm house, it got worse. The flowers turned brown and then black in places as they thawed and that’s how I saw them when I came home from school, all set to help Mom with the finishing touches for the dinner.
They were lined up in their little pots on the kitchen counter and every now and then, Mom would come and turn them to another angle, as if trying to convince herself that they weren’t really that bad. Then she would sigh and go back to icing the cake or tossing the salad. There was no question of buying new ones. The budget was already over-spent. That ship had sailed.
Suddenly, I knew just what to do.
I called the father of some children I babysat for and told him the story. “Can I have $10? You can take it out of my next week’s pay.” Then I told Mom that I had to pick up Dad’s gift and that I needed the car (I had my license!). I drove across town and collected the $10 and then I drove to the florist and purchased 3 beautiful pots of yellow mums. When I got home, all flushed with pride and excitement, I snuck into the kitchen and I swapped the dead, brown flowers for the fresh new replacements.
Five minutes later, Mom walked by again. I saw her catch her breath. She actually reached out to touch the new flowers, as if to make sure they were real. Then she turned to where I was hiding, as if she knew I would be there, and she said: “Only you could have done this.”
My heart swelled to three times its normal size.
She never mentioned it to Dad or to anyone else. It was our secret. And today, 42 years later, I still treasure the lessons she taught me:
Yellow flowers can save the day.
Whatever you do, do it not for credit or glory. Do it for love.