Tag Archives: Western New York

Lessons From Annual Daffodil Day

Me, in the Daffodil Meadow

For the last ten years, my friend and I have taken our sons to the local Daffodil Park on May 1st. The park is a gorgeous, secret jewel hidden right on the edge of our town. And each time we go, there is something that helps us to mark the passing of time.

One year, we saw a partially decayed deer carcass, and the kids poked the flesh and bones and fur with long sticks and made up stories about what must have happened to the deer. There was the time when Monkey, while walking too closely to the water’s edge, accidentally slipped in and ended up with a wet pant leg and shoe. There was the year where it was unbelievably muddy and we mommies, unprepared for such conditions, walked out of the park looking like two muddy swamp creatures along with our equally brackish boys.

Then one year was different, calmer. The boys were older. They came and went from our picnic blanket as they pleased. That year our children could reach the sign that reads: “Daffodil Park: Beginning May 1.” For years, they had jumped, trying to touch that sign with their fingertips – and then, one year, they could stand, feet planted firmly on the ground, and just push up the sign and release it with a bang. How did that happen? my friend and I wondered as we watched our sons frolic like young foals.

Daffodil Day has always been a lovely way to kick-off spring: a lovely way to pass time, a lovely way to mark our friendship. Each year, it is renewed. It is greener. Each year, a new adventure.

Monkey beside the old trees.

I don’t know how it happened, but I missed it this year.

Daffodil Day?

Not. Even. On. The. Radar.

How did that happen?

Part of me thinks that it is because the weather has just been miserable in Western, New York this spring. My husband has certainly grumbled enough about the lost rounds of golf. Even today, on May 19th, it is still overcast and cool enough for a light jacket.

But another part of me knows that Monkey and his old friend aren’t quite the friends they used to be. They have gravitated toward other people. Which is fine. It’s natural for friendships to change. But it is kind of sad, too, so I can mourn that a little.

Looking out the window yesterday – beyond the raindrops that drizzled down the glass – I decided missing Daffodil Day is wrong. Even if my friend and her son didn’t join us, I decided to take Monkey on a muddy field trip. (This time, at least I’d be prepared.) I planned to take pictures of him in the usual spots. The yellow flowers would be gone. The yellow heads would be brown and shriveled. (I was mentally prepared for that.) But Monkey and I have always liked to get dirty, liked to get caught in rain-showers, and there is a bench in the park where I figured we could just sit and chat. Without phones or any electronic devices that ping or beep. Except maybe my camera.

Because I decided I am not ready to give up that ritual. Not yet.

When Monkey came home from school and announced he had completed all of his homework, I was elated. The sun had poked out just enough for me to feel hopeful. I told him to put on his worst shoes, that we were going for a ride.

“Where we goin’?” he asked.

“Just get in,” I said, “You’ll see.”

In seven minutes, we arrived and I pulled my car over to the side of the road and intentionally left my phone in the car.

Wordlessly, Monkey and I walked down the rocky slope to the Daffodil Meadow holding hands. We walked .2 miles and quietly noticed everything. Monkey was the first to comment on green everyone was. He noticed that the water in the stream seemed lower, which it did. He noticed that a lot of the old trees had rotted more. Slapping his neck, he noted that the mosquitoes were out.

Where have all the flowers gone?

And as we made the familiar turn to the spot where thousands of daffodils usually stretch their necks upwards with a kind of sunny glow, Monkey and I marveled in unison: “Whoa!”

The whole area was under water.

This was something new.

I pulled out the camera and took pictures of him and then he took some of me. And then, because we were alone, we realized we weren’t going to have any of the two of us.

Together.

“It’s okay, Mom,” Monkey said. “We’ll come back next year. We’ll always come back.”

And I hope this is true but it occurs to me that, one day, my soon-to-be-teenaged son might not want to accompany me to the Daffodil Park. Indeed, he might not want to accompany him anywhere. He is becoming someone new, to himself, to me.

Strange as it sounds, I fell into a weird little daydream where I imagined myself a very old woman, being pushed in my wheelchair by my son on Daffodil Day. I dreamed he had made a simple picnic – a basket filled with cheese, crackers and fruit – and together we looked quietly out at the water, the trees, the flowers. I allowed myself to consider for a moment that maybe my son was not wrong, that maybe he would “always come back” so that one day, my grandchildren might bring their own children to the Daffodil Meadow.

It’s a pretty good dream, right?

I think I’ll cling to it for a little while, if you don’t mind.

What are some non-traditional family rituals that bring you joy?

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How I Tricked My Book Club Into Writing

Cover of "Bitter is the New Black : Confe...

Cover via Amazon

My neighborhood book club has been going strong for nearly three years. A bunch of women who range in age, profession, religious background, and plenty of other things, we agree that we enjoy the following items (not necessarily in the order they are listed):

1. Periodically getting together at someone’s house (preferably not our own);

2. Eating chocolates;

3. Drinking wine;

4. Chatting it up a bit;

5. Discussing books we might not have otherwise ever picked up.

The last meeting was at my house. This time eleven people showed up for an hour of “eat, booze and schmooze” in the kitchen, and eight stayed to gather on the family room couches to “talk book.” Since the host selects the book, my selection was Jen Lancaster’s Bitter is the New Black : Confessions of a Condescending, Egomaniacal, Self-Centered Smartass (Or, Why You Should Never Carry A Prada Bag to the Unemployment Office).

Quick summary: Before September 11th, Lancaster worked as an associate vice president for a technology company prior to being laid off. In this capacity she made loads of many and acquired many pairs of shoes. After 9/11, the author whines – incessantly – about being unemployed, her boyfriend/fiancé/husband, Fletch, their neighbors, their pets, and how she can no longer afford the shoes she once used to buy so readily. I liked Lancaster’s wit and rampant narcissism.

And while Lancaster was not for everyone, we agreed the book was snarky and fast-paced: a good choice for February, when knee-deep snow and the winter white skies of Western New York provide enough gloom to make everyone question just how severe our vitamin D deficiencies might be. It’s hard to stay connected to neighbors in the winter; it’s just so friggin’ cold. People walk around with their shoulders up and their heads down. We rush from warm house to warming car. There is little time to casually chat at the mailbox when the wind is stinging your ears and making your eyes tear up. Our little club keeps us connected year round so that we remain in touch with our neighbors, something equally rare these days.

It is up to the host to facilitate discussion, and – big surprise – I have long wanted to infuse a writing exercise into a meeting, so I figured – since this book was devoid of any real literary depth – this was my chance.

“Okay,” I said brightly ,”Remember when Lancaster lists her ‘Jen Commandments’? The little quirks she possesses that people who know her and love her just have to accept?”

A few people nodded. (I had my suspicions that most people didn’t get that far.)

I referred to the text. I didn’t have to; almost no one brings the book to book club.  I could have said anything, but I quoted Lancaster:

I hate holding anything heavier than my purse. If I have something in my hands, I will attempt to trick you into carrying it for me?

A few people snickered then looked semi-spooked as I handed everyone one salmon-colored index card and plopped a pen onto each lap. As I stuck a small, non-threatening bowl in the middle of my tufted ottoman, I said, “I thought it would be kind of fun if each of us wrote one of our own ‘Commandments’ and put it into the bowl. Anonymously, of course. It could be fun to see if we can figure out who goes with what.”

Initially, some people looked panicky and began to protest, but thank goodness the majority was with me. A few women asked for extra index cards. At first, I thought it was because they goofed up, but for some people once the creative juices started flowing, the flood gates could not hold all our estrogen and soon the orange-bowl, index card confessional runneth over. I read the first one aloud:

I always sleep with 3 pillows. This is a need not a want. And, I will always travel with a pillow, even if it necessitates bringing another suitcase.

We laughed, especially because we were so dead wrong with regard to whom was attached to this statement. Surely our quiet, unassuming neighbor could never be so demanding. But there she was, shamelessly nodding her head.

I passed the bowl to my right so someone else could read another book clubber’s words:

If you say you’re going to do something, then just do it. If you talk about something but never get to it, then I start wondering about you.

Hilarious. And so true.

One woman wrote on the front of her card:

I’m in charge of almost everything… (and then on the back) … and I like it that way!

Another neighbor penned:

I obsess about making decisions and my good friends have to listen to me!

Everyone easily guessed mine.

I absolutely hate repetitive noises. If you tap something more than five times, I might have to kill you.

One that stood out was short and direct.

Do not screw up my coffee order.

This, of course, led to a hilarious story about how this neighbor had recently visited a local Starbucks where the barista dared to give her three squirts of vanilla in her mocha latte instead of one. There was hell to pay that morning. 😉 There were other “isms” that were equally excellent. And it was a hoot to hear each woman’s words read aloud. Everyone was honest and enjoyed poking fun at herself, sharing her quirks, her personal truths. As usual, book club was less about the book than it was about people gathering together to get to know each other a little better.

What my book club mates don’t realize is that they are totally screwed. Now that I have seen that they can write (even under pressure), the next time it is my turn to select a book and host, we are sooooooo writing.