Daylight woke me, but I laid in bed for a long-time daydreaming. The cozy household sounds and the smell of freshly baked bread drifted up from downstairs. Hunger finally made me roll out of bed, get dressed and leave my second story bedroom. When I wandered into the kitchen, Mom turned to exclaim, “Well, you finally decided to get up!”
Slathering a thick layer of butter on a slice of homemade bread, I sat down at the kitchen table. Spring sunshine poured through the nearby window onto the chair I chose and the surrounding floor. The chair’s red vinyl seat felt very warm. I wiggled my toes on the heated flooring. As I ate the bread, I looked out the kitchen window at the lawn. Last week it had been dotted with piles of snow. Today it was starting to turn green.
Last Saturday I’d helped Daddy make small trenches in the yard to speed-up mud puddle drainage. Popping the last of the bread into my mouth, I licked a bit of butter off my fingers before asking, “Mom, I’d like to make a May altar. Do you think May flowers have started to bloom? We’ve had lots of April showers.”
Coming to stand at the window next to me, Mom peered out at the greening lawn and toward the woods across the road. She nodded and confirmed what I was thinking, “Most of the May flowers are either open or about to open.”
Suddenly energized, I jumped to my feet and announced, “I want to go to Wagner’s woods with Barb, Donna and Alice to pick May flowers.”
As I dashed into the entrance to find my jacket, Mom called after me, “Wear boots because it’ll be muddy in the woods, and take a scarf with you. It’s warm around the farm buildings, but in the woods, there might be a chilly breeze.”
Just as I slammed out the back door, Mom called after me, “Don’t pick too many flowers, or you’ll crush the stems.”
My three neighborhood cousins, who were all close to me in age, were excited about going to the woods to pick flowers. The woods were a little over a quarter of a mile away, but most of that distance was freshly plowed last fall. The dirt was dark brown with moisture. Some of us tried to walk only in the furrows, but there was water standing in some places and the soupy mixture sucked feet in deep. I tried unsuccessfully to hop from one muddy dirt clod to the next.
We were damp with sweat when we finally reached the fence. Scrabbling through three strands of barbed wire, we stopped and stared at the small swampy field in front of the woods. Millions of blossoming buttercups made it glow bright green and yellow. Barb decided, “Buttercups wilt fast. Let’s pick them when we’re ready to head home.”
The ground was solid under the winter-gray trees. Last summer cows had cropped the grass short. Birds in the budding tree branches overhead trilled and chirped happily in the sunshine. Everywhere we looked, were patches of flowers.
Pink, white and lavender grass flowers carpeted several hillocks. Lacy foliage near trees held spears of Dutchman’s breeches, looking for all the world like little white pantaloons hanging on a clothesline. Shy wood violets hunkered low in the grass along with trout lilies and blood root.
Just as Mom had said, the trilliums were just beginning to open. The flowers my brother Billy called hepatica, were wide open, their little faces tilted straight up toward the blue sky.
The flowers in my hand were almost more than I could comfortably stretch my fingers around. I asked, “How am I going to carry home the butter cups I want to pick?”
Donna suggested, “Use both hands.”
Crossing the muddy plowed field with both hands full of flowers was hard work. My cousins carried their flowers upside down. Alice informed me, “They’ll keep fresh-looking this way.” I looked at my wilting flowers. The stems felt warm where my hand gripped them.
I was wet, muddy and exhausted when I arrived home. Mom put my flowers into three or four cups and put them on the May altar. I sank down nearby and quietly munched on an apple, enjoying the sounds and smells of Mom preparing supper in the kitchen and my brother and sisters talking as they came and went.