This morning a tuft of orange and yellow daffodils waved at me in the wind as I merged onto Arlington Boulevard. The sky above them suggested that it would rain down destruction. There was hardly even any grass around for them to take root. Still, the flowers waved.
It was odd to me that daffodils would be in full bloom on the first of March, raising their faces to a sunless sky. It was odd to me that they were growing freely there, in a grassy knoll encased by concrete, as if the wind had graced a planter’s truck and spilled their seeds along the road. It was odd to me that I hadn’t seen them yesterday, or the day before, or the day before that. It was odd to me that they would wave me down today, especially since last night was one of only three nights since 2013 that I could coax Jeanne to come visit me in my dreams.
It was a rather misguided declaration of our love. Sharonia and I sat on Jeanne’s bed, her death chugging toward us like a steady train. We had about a month before we would lose her. We told Jeanne we’d get sister tattoos. Daffodils. Right next to our breasts, so that when we wore shirts that showed a little sideboob, everyone would see the flower, and the inscription underneath: lighter than a leaf in your pocket. It would be just like Jeanne’s unicorn “titty tat”: a brazen declaration which, years ago, incensed her mother (our grandmother). We would keep tradition alive; just the sight of ballpoint ink on our skin sends our mother into a conniption. Jeanne laughed at this idea, but Sharonia and I were quite serious, desperate to prove our love for our aunt as her life dwindled. The daffodil was the symbol of hope in the face of cancer. Jeanne was dying of cancer. We promised Jeanne that she would live on through us. There wasn’t much more to discuss.
We never got those tattoos.
I tried to capture those daffodils this morning. In an attempt to keep them forever, I fumbled for my phone to snag a quick video before traffic began moving along. I couldn’t turn away from the flowers long enough to get my phone together. I sighed as I drove off, having missed the opportunity to save some of her again.
That’s just like Jeanne though, isn’t it? I thought as my thumbs flew across my phone screen, trying to at least capture the moment in words. She showed up when she wanted to, how she wanted to, peeking into my dreams, springing up from the grass unexpectedly, dropping a line from her favorite song in my head. And just like my dreams, and those flowers, I could not keep her forever. Jeanne is not– was not– something I could seize and contain. I’ve been re-learning this lesson for three years, and I still can’t quite grasp it.
Well, Jeanne, if by some miracle God let’s you read this, thanks for stopping by. It’s always good to see you. And just so you know…I’d still get daffodils tatted on my tits for you if it meant I could keep you forever.