Tulips

One of the reasons I love living in Britain is because it has very distinct seasons, and if you look carefully, you can monitor these changes in the world around you. As March and April give way to May, the trees lose their blossoms and sprout new leaves, every shade of green. Green beans and spring peas appear, asparagus starts to arrive. Strawberries on the windowsill ripen. Snowdrops give way to daffodowndillys, hyacinths, and then bluebells and tulips.

This week in the garden the tulips I have planted along the edge of some beds form a long line of stand-up-straight sentinels. I have been filled with absolute glee that they have made it through the winter, and now that it is warmer, they are slowly opening their petals. I note that past me has planted them according to colour so the line moves from whites to pinks to oranges to dark reds. I do not have enough vocabulary to describe each delightful bud, each promise.

This year I have experienced more delight than I can ever remember at the appearance of the tulips. We grew them in the community garden and I loved them then but they didn’t give me the same feeling of accomplishment and delight. When did I become so obsessed? Is it because they are growing in this space that is mine alone? My own. My first proper garden which I alone must care for, nurture, tend? I remembered this week that we used to sell bulbs for school, as part of charity drives. Every year we would be sent home with catalogues for our parents to fawn over. I never ever understood their interest. All the hyacinths I saw were potted and pretty. They smelt lovely yes but hardly anything to sigh over. My mom and my aunts, their friends, always bought bulbs. Every single year. My sister says she remembers she always managed to raise loads of money because everyone was so enthusiastic. I just remember wondering what all the fuss was about.

This week I picked one of the tulips that had been blown over in the storm on Wednesday. I brought it home and put it in a jar, placed carefully above my stove so I can admire it often. I took a photo and sent it to my mom and an aunt. “I grew this!” I wrote in capitals beneath the image. The tulip has frilly edges and is pink and white. The petals appear to have been painted with a paint brush. “Beautiful!” they messaged back, and “bloody marvellous!” I smiled. They understand.

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