It’s now more commonly known as the daffodil, but when I was growing up it was the jonquil that signaled the arrival or spring more than any other. The word rolls off my mother’s southern tongue like liquid sunshine, rich and thick, and if colors had a sound there would be no other for the crazy bright yellow that is this flower. I remember many a chilly Easter morning, leaning over the row of them in our back yard, posed to pluck, while my father fidgeted with the camera. He’d be snapping incessantly and I’d most likely be complaining, but right along with the colored eggs and chocolate bunnies was this annual spring ritual getting the perfect picture of me picking jonquils in my new Easter dress. There are several thousand of them woven through the family photo albums. Another memory–the day we brought our infant daughter home from the hospital and the yard had burst into massive yellow bloom during my absence. She had entered the world and literally brought spring with her, and to this day she brings the same bright joy everywhere she goes.
I was luckier than thirteen year old Angel, the main character of the novel, who has a jonquil memory of her own.
But this one isn’t so pleasant. Here she is describing a time when her grandmother, Naomi, took the switch to her.
“One time she whipped me for lying when I’d said Jesus told me to pick all the jonquils out of the yard and bring them to Mama. I really thought he had. It was such a beautiful sight, all those pretty yellow heads bobbing in the wind. I was certain I heard a heavenly message on that sweet breeze, saying a bunch of those was just what Mama needed. Before I knew it I’d plucked every one. There weren’t any left for Naomi’s church circle meeting that week, so she let me have it but good. The sting in my ankles was bad, but not as bad as the pain in my heart for being called a liar.“
The jonquils are in full bloom now as I head to Atlanta with Angel for a full two weeks of book readings, signings, book club, school and library visits. My heart is so full of gratitude as I move into yet another promise filled spring!