Thank goodness for my mom and early signs of spring
When jonquils bloomed early last month, the sight of those cheery yellow promises of an early spring made me smile. The first jonquils of spring always make me think of my mom and dad, and the first month of my married life with my husband, Frank.
When Frank and I got married the week before Christmas in 1960, and moved to Davenport, Iowa, about three weeks later, I was in for some big surprises about leaving home.
First surprise – the weather.
Frank had warned me that Iowa winters could be pretty bitter.
But I was thinking it might be kind of fun to live in a place where beautiful, Christmas card-like snowy days were frequent and kids and grownups got to take snow days.
As we drove into Davenport that cold, gloomy January day, however, I was shocked by my first sight of the city, which was just thawing out from a recent heavy snow. It was like driving through a black-and-white movie scene. The sky was gray. The piles of hand-shoveled and snowplowed snow were dishwater dingy. The roads were a slurry of black and gray slush. It was a pitiful first impression of the city I had been looking forward to living in with my wonderful new husband.
I soon learned, after I finally found a job, that for workers and school kids to get a “snow day” in that part of the country, the snow had to be about 4 feet deep and the temperatures (not the wind-chill, mind you) about 40 below zero.
Second surprise – I was desperately homesick.
That shocked me because I had never been the homesick type. Plus, I was so madly in love with my husband I would have followed him to the ends of the earth – which, I discovered belatedly, was just about where we seemed to be when we got to Davenport.
Thankfully, this did not diminish my love for my husband one iota. But I became so unexpectedly homesick for my family that I cried every day. Seriously. Every single day.
Oh, somehow I managed to hold back the tears until Frank had left in the morning for his college classes that were less than a mile away. But then, as I cleaned our tiny, two-room apartment – and the bathroom we had to share with other renters on our floor, and which I thoroughly scrubbed, with Clorox, several times a day! – I cried, and cried.
As I scanned the local paper for job opportunities, I cried. While I made Frank’s lunch, I cried, until I heard him coming up the stairs. And I was happy while he was home with me.
But after he left for his afternoon classes, I cried while I did the dishes and tidied up our small, narrow kitchen. I lived for the afternoons he would arrive home with a letter from our post office box addressed with the familiar handwriting of my mom or dad.
By the end of January, the early thaw we had encountered my first day in Davenport had been replaced by frigid temperatures and more snow. I still hadn’t found a job and was feeling extra homesick one day when Frank came home with a letter from my mom.
Imagine my surprise when I opened the envelope and out fell two little jonquils. So, somewhere in the world, especially in Arkansas, there can still be an early spring, I thought, as I placed the slightly shriveled yellow blooms in a glass of water.
“You’ve seemed kind of down lately, dear,” my mom wrote, “so your dad and I thought it might cheer you up to see the early jonquils that bloomed in our yard today.”
Jonquils were actually my dad’s favorite flowers, while my mom’s were roses. But after I let mom know how much those little jonquils did cheer me up, she never failed to mail me the first ones she could find for the next 22 years Frank and I and our five children lived in Iowa and Illinois. After we moved back home in the fall of 1983, we got to spend many years enjoying Daddy’s jonquils and Mom’s roses together.
Mother always called a crisp, sunny day with a sky so blue it nearly takes your breath away “a blue bird day.” And that’s the kind of March morning it was 11 years ago when I walked out of the local hospital where my dad and I and my brothers and our families had spent the night saying our final goodbyes to Mom before she had to leave us for heaven. And in the grass near my car in the hospital parking lot, jonquils were blooming.