As a child, I named every flower I saw, never guessing that someone else had done so before me. Daffodils and narcissus were kings’ trumpets, tulips were queens’ cups, violets I called shys and lily of the valley were fairy bells. The bright orange flower and the springy seedpod of the jewelweed became orange poppers. I remember picking samplings of all the flowers I could find and taking them home to my mother. Spreading them out before her, I’d name every one. Ever the schoolteacher, she would fetch the big yellow flower book from the shelf and pronounce the Latin names for each of my specimens. I refused to learn them, preferring the names I’d chosen over something like galanthus nivalis, viola odorata, or tussilago fragrans. My toddler had the same independent spirit. When I told him what to call the blooming forsythia he asked, “If Cynthia has a flower, is there a for-Brendan one?” I never see one of those bushes without remembering my son.
Now, when the first flowers are pushing their way out of the cold earth, when the snowdrops and crocus bloom, when the pale green spears of the day lily and the round, raggedy-edged violet leaves promise sweet blossoms, I go out to picky fwadoos in memory of the little boy who reopened my eyes to the wonders of the season. He’s a grown man and living far away but I know somewhere in that tall, lanky form there lurks a small boy who will pick flowers in the spring and think of me, too.