a story for my New Year’s Prompt Call, which you should go prompt at please, here.
Warning… a wee bit maudlin.
The snow had finally melted. It had been a long winter – slow-starting but then dumping buckets of snow on us all of February and March and most of April.
It was May 5th, and I could finally see all of the grass, or at least the parts that had survived. I could see, too, my poor bushes, which had not done well but which were, now, trying to put out the buds they normally would have put out in early March.
There was a red fluttering in the bushes. My heart dropped – birds had not done well in this weather, and we had found a couple injured and dying red-winged blackbirds who had not managed to stay away from the hawks and the coyotes quite enough, although they’d managed to take themselves temporarily out of the food chain.
No, this was a ribbon. I moved closer – it was a lot of ribbon, actually, fluttering from what looked like a green-wrapped package.
Many years ago, one of the shipping companies had been given instructions of back door, by the bushes, and although we’d moved three times since then and there were no bushes by our back door, we could not get the shipping instructions off of our account. And so various drivers tried various things.
When I went to unearth the box, I found layers of blown-away recycling around it and on top of it. Not a new package, then, and a spike of worry shot through me. If this had been sitting there since that awful wind storm in early February, whatever was in there was certainly ruined. And yeah, that was the fish tin we’d lost in that recycling blow-over, and the awful women’s-wear magazine, and..
And the box was neither soggy nor squishy but firm and plastic-feeling, and even the bow looked better than one would expect. I brought it into the foyer and set it on the mud-catcher mat.
Why – what – was it ticking? I circled the box three times before finding the gloves I used for dying my hair – I had been an office worker during and after all the anthrax scares – and a dust mask that wouldn’t do much but might do something.
And then, nervously, I opened the package. I cut the ribbon and the plastic wrapping that was far thicker than it really needed to be – except if it had really sat in the snow for months, then it was probably as thick as needed and maybe not quite. I cut the heavy waxed box underneath. I pulled out a smaller plastic box – also green, with a painted ribbon.
There was a card; I held it away from me and opened it.
You will need a warm memory, even when the snow is gone.
I knew that handwriting. I caught my breath and tried not to sob.
Feburary had been a long month indeed. We had lost more than the grass, that month. We had spent more than our heating bill, that month, and hurt for more than the short days.
You will need something that you can hold on to, and the bulbs will not bloom until the ground is ready. Like them, this will bloom only when it is needed.
My grandmother – I had lost her, in February. Maybe I had lost her a long time before that, but I had grieved her through a short and frigid month – she had loved bulbs, planted them everywhere, given other people bulbs when she had no yard.
I would look for new flowers, when the sun came up and the ground thawed.
You will need to remember so that you can help the others remember. The handwriting was hers but the language was someone else’s. I didn’t care. I opened the box.
“Like this, see? Now isn’t that nice, here, careful. We can put a couple flowers on it and then you have a little basket.”
I closed the box again, and now I was sobbing.
I made my way to the phone, more by touch and memory than sight, and blindly i called my father.
“I wanted to tell you… I wanted to tell you a memory.” It will bloom when it is needed. “A memory about Grandma. It just.. It came to me.”