Signifying happiness, this tiny belle of a flower carpeted the forests and landscape of Europe in the spring, and my grandmother often times would tell tales of fairies using the tiny flowers as tea cups and party hats.
My grandmother always told the best stories and I swear, I could almost hear May Lily’s white bells ring.
The scent of the flower is said to attract nightingales and many of my ancestors planted them in their gardens, to protect their home from ghosts and evil spirits, and my great-grandmother believed that its intoxicating aroma invoked the power of divination, enabling even the poorest of peasants the ability to see a better world.
She had three sets of twins — that’s… um… two babies… at once… three times — passing along whatever gene dictates twins being born in our family, every other generation.
My twin brother and I were born under the sign of Gemini (May 28th typically falls around Memorial Day weekend) and Lily of the Valley is the flower of May, so I always thought it was weird how that worked out.
Signifying good luck, both of my grandmothers incorporated its tiny white flowers into their bridal bouquets, along with the traditional scented wraps of Rosemary and Lavender.
Growing up, my parents continued the tradition of keeping Lily of the Valley in their gardens and I remember one particular corner of our yard — shaded in evergreens and carpeted with pine needles — it was dark, a little scary and a perfect hiding place from, well, other more scarier things, where I would sit and pretend to sing along with the fairies.
For over thirty years, my parents worked that tiny strip of land and were able to create their own little urban sanctuary — a far cry from the derelict buildings and abandoned factories — giving invited guests a sort of ethereal sense that they had passed into a magical world.
"It’s so sad — horrible, really — you should see the place, now."
I helped my parents sell their house (three years ago) and moved them about an hour further into Southern New Jersey, but they somehow manage to find themselves in the old neighborhood for a drive-by.
"I don’t know why you guys insist on going up there and torturing yourselves."
"I would much rather you remember it, for what it was, as I do."
It’s hard, though — believe me, I know — our gardens are growing bigger, every year, and I’m finally beginning to understand why they spent all that time, nearly every spare moment, pouring their hearts into the ground.
"A happy feeling, sort of like finding a bright, shiny penny in a big old pile of dirt."
I turned away, real quick, and put up a pot of coffee.
"C’mon, let me show you what I’ve done out back."
I grabbed the camera, just in case, and helped my mom and dad down the stairs that lead into my backyard.
"Be careful of…um…presents left by Doofus-dog."
But, my warnings were to no avail, as I also inherited my father’s way of, you know, appreciating gifts.
"Hey, would you look at that!"
He scraped his shoe along the grass and pointed under…um…well, I don’t know what it’s called, but it grew from a seedling, that my father brought back from Hungary, years ago.
"When did you plant those?"
Growing underneath, was the prettiest little May flower!
"Would you look at that!"
[bending down to take a picture]
"I didn’t plant any there – or, anywhere – how weird is that?"
Not very, apparently.
"You know, today is your grandmother’s and grandfather’s wedding anniversary."
No, I’m not the least bit surprised; a little weirded-out by the fact that my grandmother visited my dreams last night to wish me a Happy Birthday, perhaps. You know how it is keeping up with the kids, life and everything. I’m beginning to dread birthdays, just a little, and have even been feeling a little achy-breaky, lately.[one beat, two beats]
Okay, I’ve hit the proverbial rough patch, only mine is emotional, mental and physical!
"Your grandparents are just letting you know, they’re here, that’s all!"
But, I’ve always been taught to believe that – no matter how hard, dry or barren it may seem – you should always listen to your heart. Mine belongs to so many people, right now. But, I’m stingy. I don’t want to go anywhere, or do anything. Except, maybe sit and breath. And not worry about anything. Or, anyone. Be anyone, or anything, else. But, you know, happy. So, I’m going to be quiet, now and just look at all the pretty flowers in my garden.[silence]
I swear, you can almost hear singing.[takes deep breath]
There’s magic in there, somewhere!