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Beautiful, aren’t they? The magnolia bush in our front garden recently burst into bloom and the sight is one that can keep me lingering at our front door – absorbing its splendour – on the busiest of days.
I’ve always loved magnolias, in spite of the fact that their extravagant beauty is so short-lived. But we didn’t plant a bush of our own until several years ago, when my youngest daughter gave me a whole new reason to appreciate the lavish pink blossoms.
It was Mother’s Day – when Jenna was only three – that magnolias took on – once and for all time – a special significance for me.
One house in our neighbourhood had three large magnolia trees on the front lawn, and that spring, as Jenna and I walked her older siblings to and from school, I told the kids they were my favourite. I remember walking past that house every day, and pointing out the buds as they became swollen and bloomed, then rained their petals onto the lawn in a carpet of candy floss pink.
A couple of weeks later, on Mother’s Day morning, the kids prepared breakfast in bed for me then clambered up on the bed to shower me with gifts. Jenna offered hers last. It was a special secret she said – one she’d obviously taken pains to wrap herself. I remember the look of eager anticipation on her face as I gingerly opened the tiny package.
There, nestled in the wrappings, was a brown, shrivelled, dead-looking thing. I admit I was surprised – and couldn’t quite figure out what it was. Some kind of flat worm? A long-since expired, dried out caterpillar? I didn’t know what to say or how to react – so, confused – I remember looking at Jenna hoping for a clue. Her expression had changed from one of excitement and hope to shock, disbelief and confusion.
“Honey! What’s wrong?” I remember asking, searching for understanding. “What is this?”
“It was a magnolia petal,” she said, her words coming out in sobs. “I picked it up for you when you weren’t looking. I know you love them. So I wanted you to have one of your own.”
Of all the Mother’s Day gifts I have ever received, that dead magnolia petal is one of my most cherished. I saved it, of course, tucked away in a tiny little decorative box. It’s disintegrated into not much more than crumbs now. But I still can’t bring myself to throw it away.
For every time I see that crumpled brown petal, and every year when our magnolia bush springs into bloom, I am reminded, again, of how very much I am loved.
.. even when they grow up!
My eldest daughter, Stephanie, sent me an email yesterday, with the first sentence of a required reading for her (second year university) Literary Criticism class. After that first sentence, Stephanie wrote just one sentence of her own.
Following is the complete text of her email:
“‘In the face of the possibility that the intellectual is complicit in the persistent constitution of the Other as the Self’s shadow, a possibility of political practice for the intellectual would be to put the economic “under erasure,” to see the economic factor as irreducible as it reinscribes the social text, even as it is erased, however imperfectly, when it claims to be the final determinant or the transcendental signified.’
THIS is why I hate school right now.”
And that email is just one more reason I love my kids.