I didn’t think much of the forsythia bush that grew in our side yard, right along the curb, flanked by two maple trees that shaded it in summer. Someone must have cut it back once in a while, but mostly it grew leggy and wild. Yellow was not, in my opinion, among the prettiest colors for flowers. Dandelions were the other ubiquitous yellow that appeared in the spring, so I think I regarded the forsythia bush as a giant weed.
I think about that this time of year, as the forsythias around here bud in yellow, as the green shoots of daffodils poke up from the ground and form their bulging promises of flower and open their yellow trumpets, as crocuses make their quieter appearances, as the Bradford pear trees suddenly wear their white fuzz of blossoms one morning.
Dad built a garage in the side yard when I was in junior high, and a new living room for us on top of that, so the forsythia and the maples and the hedge along the other edge of our corner property had to go. Mom made him transplant the forsythia to the back yard. She had allergies and never had flowers in the house. She wasn’t a gardener. But that bush must have meant enough to her for her to insist that it needed to live on.
Years ago I realized, of course: It must have been her tangible sign of spring.
This is one of the things I’d like to ask her about. It’s 25 years ago this week that she died, and probably not a day goes by that I don’t think of her; not a week goes by that there isn’t something I’d like to ask her, or tell her. Now, I’m wishing that I had thought to ask Dad, “Tell me about moving the forsythia bush” before he died in August.
This is part of the adjustment of being parentless in the world: I’ve lost my two primary sources. And for someone who makes her living striving for accuracy — essentially, trying to get the story right — it leaves a sometimes frustrating emptiness. Mom, why was that bush important to you? Dad, how deep and wide did you have to dig to get its root ball? How did you keep it alive in its new soil? I want to know things that once were knowable, and there’s no way to Google them.
Still, after a long, hard winter, the forsythia blooms, in neighbors’ yards and along the property of the corporate headquarters I drive past on the way to work and church. Still, when I dream about that house I grew up in, the addition isn’t even an idea yet, and the forsythia sprawls its woody branches, and it’s always a sunny morning. Still, spring comes.
Spring comes again, and the fresh six-packs of annuals beckon at the nurseries. When I was a kid I thought marigolds stank. When I was a young adult I joked that Dad (who grew up on a farm) planted them like a row crop in our little front yard. But that’s what I bought at the nursery Saturday, and if I had a front yard, that’s how I’d plant them this year.