I was eight and my brother three years younger, an elderly woman from
Kansas came to visit her grandson, John Ott, and his new wife. John
was an employee at the small airport at Saltillo,
in Hopkins County.
Mary, the bride, was my sister's best friend. They spent twelve years
with each other in a small class as it progressed toward graduation
from our rural school. Mary stayed overnight at our house several
times before she married John.
One afternoon in the early spring shortly after my younger brother
and I had arrived home from school, Mary brought Gram, as John called
his grandmother, to visit my family. Mary wanted Gram to meet our
family. She also wanted Gram to see the daffodils in bloom in the
pasture across the road from our house. Though two houses had once
stood in the pasture, before I was born they fell to ruin, and the
debris was hauled away. Each spring the daffodils blossomed in abundance
at the sites where the houses had once stood. They were the first
harbingers of spring, blooming even before the Indian paintbrushes.
When I was young, however, I took the daffodils for granted, hardly
noting the beauty of their blossoms.
That afternoon the two visitors and my mother stood in our front yard
for a short while admiring the daffodils in the pasture. The sun was
bright, but there was a damp chill in the air. It must have been even
cooler four hundred miles north in Kansas. Gram was surprised to see
daffodils blooming so early.
asked my brother and me to pick a bouquet of the daffodils for our
visitor from Kansas. Both our grandmothers were dead; my brother and
I hardly knew how to respond to this tiny woman wearing her gray hair
pulled to a bun at the nape of her neck. We took our cue from Mary,
who seemed to hold her husband's grandmother in awe. Taking our mission
seriously, my brother and I climbed through the strands of barb wire
as carefully as we could so as not to tear our clothing or snag our
When we reached the site, we began to break the brittle stalks holding
the largest blossoms. We felt immediately the sticky liquid that was
released from each stalk. The nearer to the ground I stooped, the
more the smell of the damp soil penetrated my nostrils. We felt a
chill when we inadvertently touched the water in the shallow puddles
beside the rows of daffodils. Soon each of us had gathered a bouquet,
which we took across the pasture. I noticed that my brother broke
the stalks at a point that made each approximately the same length.
We placed our bouquets temporarily on the grass as we made our way
cautiously through the strands of wire once again. Then each of us
picked up his small bundle of daffodils. With pride we handed the
bouquets to Mamma, too shy to offer them to the stranger from Kansas.
Gram smiled appreciatively when my mother handed her the flowers.
She was a woman of few words, but we could tell that she was grateful
for this gesture of hospitality. Soon Gram and Mary left in the black
Ford coupe I had seen Mary's husband drive often. I like to think
that Gram kept the daffodils in a vase on a night stand beside the
bed where she slept the few nights she stayed at John and Mary's house.
And I like to think that the next winter in Kansas, perhaps during
one of the snowstorms, she thought more than once of the daffodils
we gave her when she visited our farm.