The first peonies have arrived, showing up on Monday after the floral department of the grocery store had nearly been stripped bare on Mother’s Day. The one chapter I have left to write is “The Wedding Planner” and it begins with Mike ordering flowers for our wedding. He knew I loved peonies, and somehow managed to find some in April.
Mike probably remembered my fondness for peonies from a May trip to Seattle, when the Pike Street Market overflowed with huge buckets of peonies. They don’t grow here in the south, making them all that more special.
On the farm, the front yard was lined on three sides by peonies. It seems Dad planted them while a lonely bachelor (all of his siblings having married and moved on, leaving him and his widowed father rattling around in the big, old farmhouse alone). The peony bushes were among the first to shoot up stems, sometimes while snow was still on the ground. Knowing the treat that was in store, I’d watch their progress from day to day. First, tiny buds would arrive. And then as May progressed, the buds would grow large and begin to show color. It was always a race to see if any were in full bloom by Memorial Day. Was it the white or pink ones that bloomed first? I’d guess white, since I know the red ones lagged far behind, never showing their glossy heads until June.
Memorial Day always precipitated the same argument between Mom and Dad. Actually, it was a more of standoff as neither one budged an inch.
“You’re not putting artificial flowers on any of my family’s graves,” Dad would tell Mom, like she hadn’t figured that out the first time it came up – which must have been about the time I was born.
“Yes, I know,” she’d say wearily, while arranging faux stems. “These are for my family.”