True, I am prone to fits of nostalgia. Certain things stir me up on the inside. I'll dive headlong into them and forget to breathe for a while. My garden does this to me. so... a few weeks ago I shamelessly snapped some photos of my peony buds, all scrunched up, getting ready to go dancing. Still, it didn't prepare me for the morning it happened. When I saw my favorite flowers in full bloom. They were the perfect pink and fluffier than Aunt Mildred's old powder puff. They were full-on debutantes with eighteen petticoats each and teetery heels. Can you even imagine a swoonier flower? I don't think so.
My peonies dude, were dressed to the nines!
I've always had a soft-spot for them, but then you probably already know that. On the off chance that you don't, let me just say... I love me some peonies! they are just so luscious. so perfect. so Belle of the Ball. so old aunts. At any rate, I am always thrilled when they stop by to say hello, even though they only stay for a short while. They are nothing if not proper. They know how I pine for them. That they are my secret handshake to the start of summer, they are my litmus test, without them how would I know it's officially time to stuff the freezer with popsicles and paint my toenails.
I gaze at them and wonder how old they are. Most of them have been moved here from another garden. Planted by a man who loves them as much as I do. I like to pretend that they are a hundred years old. I think of them as old ladies, and give them names like Pearl, Emma, Clara, Phoebe, Madeline, Alice, Hazel and Agnes. I'm sure they don't mind. Just because I love them so, I extend them a bit of grace. I understand that they are tired and frail. It's alright that they can't stay long, that they wilt in the heat, droop in the rain, and are losing their petals.
Still, they are the very picture of old fashioned charm and elegance. Oh Lordy, I wonder if they judge me in my cut offs and flip-flops, I'm pretty sure they do. But, compared to them, I'm a youngster, so I'm betting they extend me a bit of grace also. Although, I'll bet they snicker at my city-girl faux pas. They probably fell off their rockers laughing when they heard about my pie crust recipe. Yet we coexist happily here, two generations of ladies, born in different times, but with a shared appreciation for earth the color of chocolate, lemonade sunshine and the perfect shade trees. Yet sadly, the window of opportunity is so short with peonies, a few years back I carelessly planned our vacation during prime blooming time, a regrettable mistake I intend never to repeat.
While I'm heaping praise onto their gracefully showy heads, I might as well comment on the fact that with these ladies, I never feel the need to rein in my urge to cut as many blooms as I want. In fact, I think it would be a crying shame not to gather as many armfuls as I can. I have made it my mission to gift my unfortunate, peony-less friends with their very own bouquets. It's kinda what I do best, next to laundry and baking cookies. It's my spiritual gift in flower form. Peonies, how I love thee. I bow to your mop heady beauty. Your blooms turn me all askew. and every time it is so unexpected. so unusual. or maybe I am just noticing it more. Appreciating it more. Just promise you will never leave me.
I cried twice, when I first saw them. Why? Why?
The first time was because they make me think about my dad. It was one of those moments where, if I had so chosen, I could have taken it up a few notches, to the full-on ugly cry. But I didn't.
Then it happened again, the very next day! You heard me.
Yes, I was still a little confused. But I realized they were taking me back to a few years ago to when my Dad divided his peonies, the ones he has had for forty years and helped me plant them in my garden. we scattered them about the yard like wishes at a birthday party. they were beautiful this year, the best EVER. It hit me square in the heart, they may have had a little extra magic sprinkled on them this time. I have come to expect this lately. Extra blue in the sky. Fluffier clouds. unexpected double rainbows. pennies and butterflies, everywhere. It's always there now, in the faces of those I love. It is everywhere I expect it to be and all the places that surprise me. I keep thinking it might, but the sky hasn't fallen yet. It's still blue on a good day, gray on the in betweens. It's still there and we're still here and the magic is all around us. It's waiting to be seen. But right now, it's nice to remember.
Even though I knew it was coming, I was still a little sad. Some of the aunts "got the vapors" while I was not watching. when I returned, they were lying on the ground looking so forlorn, their petticoats an atrocious sight, scattered in heaps at their feet. I was wondering then, am I so enamored of peonies because they are so fleeting? For now, they're off to wherever it is they go, playing bridge and wearing pearls with coral lipstick.
Until next time, lovely ladies.
Winthrop Beach Brownies
adapted from Heirloom Baking