By M.J. Adair
Copyright 2017 M.J. Adair
The last of Mother’s daylilies fell off the stalk yesterday.
A wonderful run of color for weeks curved around my front yard almost up to the front door. The tall apricot and yellow petals stand out from their modern gold and yellow hybrid neighbors, merging together like a bountiful welcome wreath flanking my Texas home. Delicate, soft, velvety flowers emerge. Straight, tall, elegant stems. There’s hope that one of the younger siblings that froze in winter and hasn’t yet reached full size may yet burst forth in beauty.
I remain in awe that these flowers came to me with more than a thousand years of history that began in Asia. What I know of my lineage began around 1935 when Mama Ditzie, the neighborhood grandmother who lived across the street, offered my Mother a clump from her garden. Mother planted the beauties in the long north-facing bed of her new home. There they flourished as eye catchers in their annual apricot-colored display.
Perhaps I should be ashamed about how I acquired my daylily starts from our home.
But I’m not.
Sometime in the 1990s, when passing my former home, a “for rent” sign caught my eye. The house appeared to be unoccupied. Of course, I seized the opportunity to gaze at length into every room and savor the memories. When I rounded the final corner to peer into the window over the kitchen sink, I looked down. Fresh shingle litter and paint dribbles from a recent and sloppy “beautification” were scattered next to the foundation in the stretch of earth that once held Mother’s magnificent show of daylilies. Then, I froze in astonishment. Amidst the mess was a whole row of emerging green leaves and one flower. The glorious daylily bed that set off our corner house all those years ago was preparing to do it again. The stalwart daylillies had even survived the recent trampling of painters, roofers and ladders acting as though they didn’t notice the disrespect.
That last revelation, and 60 years of renter neglect, proved everything I’d ever read about daylily endurance.
However wrong it might seem to others, I bought a trowel and untangled a few of the roots that were just beginning to sprout leaves from the soft caramel-and red-colored earth of Oklahoma. Though determined to transplant them to the concrete-hard soil of my Central Texas home, I glanced furtively for someone to come ranting and waving menacingly about my right to be there.
No one did.
These flowers, like the house, would always be ours. Legalities regarding daylilies are silly.
Five small starts that day became the parade of color that brightens my world now.
All this spring I stroked the petals each day as though my gentle touch conveyed a sort of tactile flower language of love, joy and respect. With my touch I hope to stir their memories, and mine, of a time long gone when their annual beauty showcased a setting I once called home.
As I nurture them in this part of their journey, dividing, watering, removing spent stalks and desiccated leaves, the resiliency of the daylilies strikes me as similar to our lives. From one stalk around eight flowers unfurl their perfect beauty on consecutive days with each one providing its miracle only one day. Next spring the same plants will sprout newborns while spreading their roots to create new plants.
As they extend their lineage into the forever, like us, daylilies never know what’s coming. They endure, adapt and flourish through drought and neglect, trampling, pestilence, tornados, rain, hail, snow and floods. They survive transplanting to other soils hundreds, if not thousands, of miles from their origins. Wherever they land, their beauty and strength endures.
My role is to be like people I meet, sometimes only briefly, who leave a soul-empowering stamp upon my journey of life. I nourish and pay attention to these soil-bound beauties. Then, sometimes I part with their offspring as gifts to neighbors, friends and relatives, knowing that regardless of circumstances they will share their joy and resilience wherever they go.