TOKEN FOR THE GUEST by
Gram and Daffodils
I was eight and my brother three years younger, an elderly woman from Kansas came
to visit her grandson, John Ott, and his new wife. John was an employee at the
small airport at Saltillo, in Hopkins County. Mary, the bride, was my sister's
best friend. They spent twelve years with each other in a small class as it progressed
toward graduation from our rural school. Mary stayed overnight at our house several
times before she married John.|
One afternoon in the early spring shortly
after my younger brother and I had arrived home from school, Mary brought Gram,
as John called his grandmother, to visit my family. Mary wanted Gram to meet our
family. She also wanted Gram to see the daffodils in bloom in the pasture across
the road from our house. Though two houses had once stood in the pasture, before
I was born they fell to ruin, and the debris was hauled away. Each spring the
daffodils blossomed in abundance at the sites where the houses had once stood.
They were the first harbingers of spring, blooming even before the Indian paintbrushes.
When I was young, however, I took the daffodils for granted, hardly noting the
beauty of their blossoms.
That afternoon the two visitors and my mother
stood in our front yard for a short while admiring the daffodils in the pasture.
The sun was bright, but there was a damp chill in the air. It must have been even
cooler four hundred miles north in Kansas. Gram was surprised to see daffodils
blooming so early.
asked my brother and me to pick a bouquet of the daffodils for our visitor from
Kansas. Both our grandmothers were dead; my brother and I hardly knew how to respond
to this tiny woman wearing her gray hair pulled to a bun at the nape of her neck.
We took our cue from Mary, who seemed to hold her husband's grandmother in awe.
Taking our mission seriously, my brother and I climbed through the strands of
barb wire as carefully as we could so as not to tear our clothing or snag our
When we reached the site, we began to break the brittle stalks
holding the largest blossoms. We felt immediately the sticky liquid that was released
from each stalk. The nearer to the ground I stooped, the more the smell of the
damp soil penetrated my nostrils. We felt a chill when we inadvertently touched
the water in the shallow puddles beside the rows of daffodils. Soon each of us
had gathered a bouquet, which we took across the pasture. I noticed that my brother
broke the stalks at a point that made each approximately the same length. We placed
our bouquets temporarily on the grass as we made our way cautiously through the
strands of wire once again. Then each of us picked up his small bundle of daffodils.
With pride we handed the bouquets to Mamma, too shy to offer them to the stranger
Gram smiled appreciatively when my mother handed her the
flowers. She was a woman of few words, but we could tell that she was grateful
for this gesture of hospitality. Soon Gram and Mary left in the black Ford coupe
I had seen Mary's husband drive often. I like to think that Gram kept the daffodils
in a vase on a night stand beside the bed where she slept the few nights she stayed
at John and Mary's house. And I like to think that the next winter in Kansas,
perhaps during one of the snowstorms, she thought more than once of the daffodils
we gave her when she visited our farm.