Friday, January 16, 2009

Day 54: You Wore a Tulip

Growing up, my parents would sing old songs. "Let Me Call You Sweetheart", "Daisy, Daisy", and "Mairsy Dotes" were some I remember. My favorite was one about a big yellow tulip. Do you know the lyrics? It goes:
You wore a tulip, a big yellow tulip, and I wore a big red rose.
When you caressed me twas then heaven blessed me, what a blessing no one knows.
You made life cheery when you called me deary, way down where the blue grass grows.
Your lips were sweeter than julep, when you wore that tulip, and I wore a big red rose.

Tonight, I piled my kids into our car in the freezing cold and went on a drive just after the sun set. The house was feeling big and empty, and we needed to fill some time before bed. The radio is broken in our wonderful van, so, as I drove, I sang those old songs. When I came to that one, I couldn't help but smile. Then I wondered if I had the talent to guess at the love story behind it. So, I thought I would try...

If you ever visit Kentucky, make sure it is in the month of May. The soft green of early spring bursts forth into the multi-hued exuberance of coming summer. Horses on a track in Louisville. Fireworks over the Ohio River. Colts chasing behind straight fences in cropped green pastures. The heart of Kentucky can be found in the month of May.

That spring, my love and I would meet at the end of a lane--Happy Jack Hollow. He was always there first, somehow. Sitting on the low, moss-covered stone wall the rambled quietly on one side. At it's base, daffodils planted many years before bloomed. A very few tulips remained. He would rise, smiling, and take my hand. We would walk down the lane--talking, making plans. It was our favorite place.

On this May morning, I could see him, seated already--slowly twirling the last of the yellow tulips in his hands. As I approached, he rose and strode quietly toward me. With a soft, sad smile, he placed the tulip in the chocolate brown curls of my hair. Taking my hand, we began to walk silently.

The stream criss-crossed our path several times, overflowing from recent rains. But it ran clear, and shallow, across the slabs of slate. Stopping at one crossing, I peered down into the water and could see both of us reflected. He leaped lightly across the stream, and helped me gently across. A swarm of tiny, violet butterflies rose around us--fluttering in the rays of sunlight making their way through the trees.

We did not talk of the war in France. We did not talk of him leaving. I did not then dream of fields of poppies under clear blue skies. We thought only of each other, in a silence so brittle that neither of us dared breathe, let alone speak. Walking again, slowly, we came upon a wild rose bush with the first tiny rosebuds of summer on it. I reached out and broke off one stem and placed it in the buttonhole of his shirt.

Looking up at him, we kissed softly once. Sweeter than julep. He released my hand and turned to go. I wanted to run after him. To tell him to come back to me. To tell him that I would be waiting. But he was already gone.

PS. Yes. Happy Jack Hollow is real. And I've been there in May. :)

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