Blue flowers and a red kitchen

WHEN A MARRIAGE FAILS

Out of the mud the bluest flowers

open in the sun

unashamed,

without anger or regret; neither more or less than what it is,

alive again and free.

MARIAN OLSON

It’s below zero this morning and Spring seems like a lifetime away.

When I read this poem in Comfort Prayers this morning, I thought of the Virginia Bluebells that bloomed in the backyard of our first home in Springfield. Our home on Holmes was our favorite. Partly because it was it our first, but there was so much more. The oaks and the sycamore out in front, the yard with its coneflowers and butterfly bushes, the porch that was comparable in size to a living room and the swing where countless pointed and pointless conversations took place, all made it perfect.

Spring is perfect because it holds the promise of new life. My sister Jennine and I just happened to go Blessed Sacrament one Spring morning and drove by an open house sign. My husband and I visited three open houses that afternoon, after which I recalled the faded mint green bungalow on Holmes. As we walked up to the house, a woman was pulling a Radio Flyer wagon, inside sat her little boy holding a balloon which he stopped playing with for just a moment to say hello to us and ask if we were going to buy that house.

We responded, that we needed to check it out first, but just maybe we will buy it!

Within a couple of hours, we were on the phone with an attorney friend seeking his advice on how to make an offer on a home being sold by its owner. We wrote the porch swing into the contract. We moved in Memorial Day weekend. Winter and Summer fought over Spring that night, evidenced by a precipitous drop in the temperature that forced us to turn on the furnace. I think there was even a frost that night. We took comfort in having a working fireplace and furnace.

Our marriage was still in its infancy. We were married that February in Savannah, Georgia where flowers always bloomed. We thought we would live in Springfield for five, ten years, or maybe longer. We’d start our family there. I’d continue to work in state government. My sister and her then boyfriend, now husband, lived down the street. It was idyllic.

I was blissfully ignorant. I was invited to participate in the block club. I attended a meeting one evening. He was painting the kitchen red. A red kitchen with butter trim. Sitting on the southwest corner of the house, the light was perfect for the color. I came home buzzing with excitement about becoming part of this new neighborhood. I found the freshly painted kitchen both lovely and intense. I found thick streams of paint running down the walls because the roller was overly saturated. One gallon of paint and two bottles of wine were emptied.  I tried to laugh it off, but the scene became a perpetual rerun.

I loved those Virgina Bluebells. He painted the office blue. Sitting on the Northwest corner of the house, opposite the kitchen, the room was a serene space. It had blue carpet mirrored by a blue ceiling. I often sat on the futon, where I felt like I floated between the clouds, looked out the window and admired my flowers as I watched the sunset.  I always planned to plant some Bluebells. We lived in four more homes before he left, and I never did.

I love that perennials come back year after year. I’ve come to favor them over annuals. All those springs, planting and digging, watering and waiting, I never really felt grounded. And now like the poem, I look forward to planting the bluest flowers and watching them bloom unashamed.

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