The tulip tree has always been my favorite. Perhaps it is because those fantastic magenta blooms seem to signal spring is on it’s way. And spring has always been my favorite of all the seasons.
This year I’ve longed for spring a bit more. Most winters have only one day with some sort of wintry precipitation. Many years I never even pack away my beloved flip-flops. But any fascinations or daydreams of living in snowy winter wonderlands that I might have harbored deep in my mind have long faded, leaving me with frozen feet as I continue to slosh around in the wet yuck left behind from four frigid ice storms. The days have been far colder than my warm Southern body is used to bearing; wind and ice have been no match for life in Cajun country. While I can’t say that I exactly prefer the reading on the thermometer to closely match the spiciness of the local cuisine, I don’t really want to slip and slide on ice either.
Just this week I have started to notice all the purple flowers blooming on all the tulip trees about town, even as the icicles once again hung 3 inches from the roof of my house, making those beautiful blossoms look ridiculously out of place. And yet, as always tulip trees in the spring bring a smile to my face. Before long, days will be warmer, the sun will shine brighter, the azalea bushes will burst forth in brilliant colors, the heavenly scent of gardenias will hang heavy in the air, and everyone will turn into a gardener of sorts.
Thoughts of spring is not the only thing popping into my mind upon seeing a tulip tree in full bloom. I also see this image in my head:
… an early spring afternoon not so long ago, when a little girl came racing into the house declaring that I must immediately come and see “the most beautiful tree in the world.” Before I could make any response, she ordered, “Grab your camera, Mom! I’m changing my clothes. This is a photo opportunity!” And it was … it really was.
Even her brothers got in on the fun … first Nathan who insisted on a photo with his afternoon snack, followed by a rather silly Joel.
I cannot really fathom five years have passed since that afternoon. Joel is nearly 14, Nathan will be a teen boy before long and that sweet little girl has grown into a ten year old young lady. She’s doubled her life!
I’ve noticed a trend. I seem to struggle more with motherhood and parenting as my children grow older and older. I’ve not yet found my feet in parenting tweens and teens. Oh, I love those kids of mine … all five of them. But, well, it’s a much more weary job now than it was when they were babies. I miss the sweet smell of baby hair, snuggled up in a rocking chair even at 2 am. I miss tiny clothes, the pitter-patter of little feet, chubby hands holding mine as we crossed a dangerous parking lot together, and books before bed (always followed by “just one more” and I would give in to another bedtime story for I could never resist reading to my babes). Something I think that if I could, I would turn back the clock of time and capture it all again.
And yet there are blessings.
Conversations are never boring. Their questions no longer border on the insane sort, but rather challenge me to think about what I believe and why.
I can share my favorite non-kid books and movies with them and delight as they discover characters to cherish. Last month, I encouraged Julia and Megan to read Anne of Green Gables. Each day they had to update me on the latest happenings in Avonlea, as Anne and Diana’s adventures unfolded. And then earlier this week, as the ice kept us in again, we watched the movie together, all of us swooning over the dashing Gilbert Blythe. As much as I loved Brown Bear, Brown Bear and Goodnight Gorilla, I find it infinitely more enthralling to discuss The Adventures of Tom Sawyer or the antics of Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird.
I finally get their jokes. I am no longer just laughing at the cute things they say … I am laughing with them over the wonderful things they say. Somehow there is a rather deep pleasure in this sort of mature connection. A pleasure, I must admit, I never expected to discover.
A wise woman once told me, “The days are long but the years are short.” It’s true. There is no turning back the clock and getting the baby days back again. My kids are growing up. It’s bittersweet … a proud sort of pleasure that burns the back of my throat and stings my eyes as tears threaten to fall. And yet, what wonderful people they are and how amazing that I get to witness first hand the transformation of child to young adult.
And somehow, whenever I notice the tulip trees beginning to bloom, there grows within me a hope of warmer days and sunshine as the dead of winter begins to transform itself into a beautiful spring.