It is Easter, and the world is beautiful. But two things are missing and you can blame the harsh, lingering winter for that.
Yes, it’s Easter, but the azaleas are not yet in bloom, and the dogwood blossoms have barely begun to open.
Easter in April without azaleas and dogwood? It just can’t be.
I have lamented their absence, loud and long, to anyone who will listen.
And I was thinking, grouchily, about the AWOL azaleas and MIA dogwoods as I walked through the rehab unit at Florence Hand Home, where my mother is recovering from a fall. A young nursing assistant looked out from behind a loaded linen cart to give me a big smile and a warm greeting. I knew she had gone out of her way to bring Mama the cup of coffee she’d craved the afternoon before. Here was a young woman who spends her work days, including many weekends and holidays, emptying bedpans, making beds, taking vital signs and giving baths. It’s hard work, miserable sometimes, but her sweet spirit absolutely filled that bleak hall.
And as I walked away, an azalea bloomed in my head.
I drove down Broad Street, usually a fairyland of dogwoods, and made the familiar turn toward the newspaper office on South Greenwood Street. A letter bearing my name had been delivered, and when I opened it, a yellowed clipping fell out. It was a column I’d written about the time the first President Bush was inaugurated, applauding first lady Barbara Bush for vowing never to dye her hair, go on a diet or have a facelift. I’d found it refreshing that she was comfortable with her plump, wrinkled, gray-haired self and not preoccupied with her “image.” There was no note with the envelope, just a tiny scrap of paper with these words: “Undated and timeless.” I blinked in amazement. Some unknown someone had saved a column for more than 20 years, then been gracious enough to let me know it.
I went home with a spring in my step and a dogwood blossom in my head.
We made our first trek of the season to George F. Harris Baseball Complex on a gorgeous spring evening with all the right ingredients - perfect temperature, bright blue sky, hundreds of fresh-faced boys in ball caps. The grandprincess even ate a hot dog. Nothing at all was missing, save the azaleas and dogwoods. Midway through the grandtwins’ game, a cute little fellow on the opposing team swung a bat bigger than he was and, after a comedy of errors, ended up at third base. The next batter hit a pop-up toward third, and the little runner reached up and proudly caught his teammate’s ball. Blissfully ignorant of his mistake, he jubilantly called out, “I got it!” then, still clutching the ball, ran to home plate and “scored.” I laughed until I cried, but softly, so as not to spoil his moment.
And, yes, an azalea - a bright hot pink azalea - blossomed in my head.
I was within sight of my bloom-free dogwood when I opened the trunk of my car and, to my dismay and embarrassment, found two pots of mums I’d put there weeks ago and forgotten. They had looked dead when I picked them up on Mother’s patio, intending to dump them once I got home. But despite the egregious neglect, there was a bit of new growth at the base of the plants - yellow from lack of sunshine, but alive. I watched sheepishly as the man of the house watered the sad-looking pots. Each day the foliage gets a bit greener and a little bigger. Those struggling mums seem the perfect symbols of hope - and of this holy season.
Every time I see them, a graceful, white dogwood blossoms in my head.
And so it has gone. On gray days and bright ones, in warmth or in chill, spring has burst forth, as it always does, with the beauty of flowers and the human spirit.
Easter in April without azaleas and dogwood?
Like I said, it just can’t be.