[originally written April, 2009]
A few days ago my Grandfather sent me (as well as others in the family) some pictures of the daffodils that were coming up in his yard.
I wrote back telling him how pretty they were, then went on to say that daffodils were kind of special to me. They spark something inside of me; it’s like when I see daffodils coming up, I know spring is here.
We have been at the same church for over 15 years. The church building is surrounded with daffodils, and when I was a little girl I would get so excited to see the pretty yellow and white flowers popping up all over the yard. I always associated them with Easter. When I would see them coming through the dirt and mess of the yard, it brought forth anticipation in me for the beautiful holiday. Even now, when I see daffodils, I get a tingle of excitement that spring is here; and that Easter is coming. By now, of course, Easter has passed. But I still get a twinge of excitement when I see the daffodils.
My Grandad wrote back last night. I was waiting for my turn to brush my teeth so I could go to bed when I decided to check my email from my phone while I waited. I didn’t expect any new email, as it had only been about twenty minutes since I’d been online. But there was the response. I opened it and began reading it on my tiny screen.
He told me that there was a history to those particular daffodils, and I was inspired to share it with you.
They came to his home from the farm his parents owned in Maine, but before that they came from a farm his parents owned in Massachusetts. His father (My great-grandfather) had bought the farm around 1924, and the people before him were comparatively well to do. One memory he has was that there was a tiny hole in the middle of the dining room floor, under the dining table, where a wire was connected to a bell in the kitchen which could summon the maid by stepping on a button under the table with your foot.
The family who had previously owned (and presumably built) the home had put in a nice, large flower garden in front of the barn between a large cellar door and the front corner of the barn, all enclosed by an attractive, low, stone wall. He guessed it to be at least twenty by twenty-five feet. Grandad remembered that his Dad and Mom would often work in it in the evenings to keep it looking spiffy. Though he was young, he remembers gorgeous large hollyhocks growing up against the barn, and a number of perennial plans such as bleeding heart, delphinium, lilies, phlox, daffodils, etc. growing. He also remembered how nice the garden smelled when he would play with his toy cards on top of the stone wall.
The driveway circled in and out right in front of it, and many folks that stopped by to buy veggies, applies, pears, cherries, berries and currants from their farm stand would admire and remark on the flower show. They moved from that farm in Massachusetts to one in Maine when my grandfather was seven years old, though a few of his relatives stayed in Massachusetts.
At the farm in Maine they did not have many flowers at first; it was more what one might call “survival gardens” to raise food to sell and for the family. But eventually his father developed a large vegetable garden where he put some peonies, lilies, etc, bordering the driveway and its strip of lawn.
My grandfather’s Uncle Lawrence was not the gardener that my great-grandfather was, though he always had a good vegetable garden, and the flower garden in front of the barn got overrun with grass and weeds and never looked the same again. But one thing about daffodils; they don’t run out like tulips, hyacinths and crocus, but tend to multiply if they are not too smothered.
About 1950, he guesses, Uncle Lawrence decided to dig up and thin out the daffodils, bringing up to Maine a whole bucket or two of extra bulbs! Great-grandfather planted them along the front of the garden in a strip about four feet wide by about seventy-five to a hundred feet long, and the multiplied some more. When my grandfather returned from the Army in Germany in March of 1955 with his new (Zeiss Ikon 35mm) slide camera, what a sight there was to photograph! –looking toward the house from the far side of the garden, with the resh green spring lawn, and then that huge strip of nodding yellow daffodils! Beautiful.
They multiplied even more, so great-grandfather “subdivided” again, and planted a narrow strip on each side of the driveway all the way to the road (it was a long driveway!). After great-grandmother died in 1973, he even planted some in the farm cemetery. When my grandfather and his brother Lester had to sell the farm, he made sure to dig up a couple peonies and a box of daffodil bulbs, and he planted the bulbs “temporarily” on the side of the vegetable garden at his home in New Hampshire. At some point later on, he inadvertently planted a couple of rhubarb plants on top them! He was sure their tops had died away when he did that, but undaunted, they bloomed away every spring, long before the rhubarb was barely popping the ground.
After removing brush, vines, and all sorts of things from the front corner of the yard, he put down some wood chips and thought it would be a good place to plant some of the daffodils. He also thought another place to plant some would be the adobe-looking birdbath. But he now faced a problem – how could he find the bulbs? The tops die away early in the summer, and then huge rhubarb leaves hide everything. So when the rhubarb leaves were done after frost, he dug up a large section where the bulbs had multiplied, and got a lot of them – but not all! He tried tying string around the tops when they were green to identify the locations later on, with results less than spectacular. Every year he transplants a few, and every year there are still a few remaining, blossoming even now under the raspberry bushes!
He concluded, saying, “Well, I guess we can say these are definitely interstate bulbs, having traveled, survived and multiplied in three states! And isn’t it a wonderful picture of how we as Christian believers, though we die and our bodies rest in the ground, at Christ’s command we shall be resurrected and gloriously flower forth in new bodies!!!”
What a beautiful thing to say! I confess, while I see allegories to the Christian life and similarities of Christ’s love and work in many different things in life, I never made the connection to perennials, and more specifically daffodils. I think that’s partly due to the fact that I don’t garden, and I don’t know much of anything about plants. However, I was inspired by the letter my Granddad wrote. How true! He laid out a story and made the plant seem so simple…and then so easily tied it in with our lives in Christ.
Spring is a beautiful time of year, and daffodils always mark its coming for me. But now I have an even greater reason to be excited and feel a twinge when I see the daffodil peeking through the ground… a reminder of the coming day when I, too, shall suddenly come forth out of the ground in a beautiful new temple to be with my Savior – even greater than the promise of Easter is the promise of the ultimate resurrection day.