Do You Remember?
I sit here in the garden, and let my mind take me back....
Wisteria has a sweet, heavy fragrance and the warmth of late spring makes it hang in the air, attracting the bees in droves. That is what first brought me to you. Do you remember?
It was late April, I think, maybe early May, and you were out in the yard when the moving truck pulled up next door. I wasn’t real happy to be moving again, but I was resigned to it. I had been a military brat all my life, and this was just one more stop on Daddy’s tour of duty. I was just glad this move would give me a few months before I was stuck in yet another new school.
The movers spent the whole day putting furniture and boxes in the new house, and I noticed you stop your work periodically to watch the action. I figured that the big attraction was that the armed forces had come to town. It wasn’t like we were living on the base or anything so everybody in the neighborhood wasn’t military. Daddy did that when he could – he felt it gave me a better understanding of the real world by not being tied to the closed environment that service life was.
Mother had opened the house up to air out. She said we might as well enjoy the fresh air while we could. The heat made air conditioning a necessity, but there was no point with men traipsing in and out carrying stuff.
I went upstairs to the room I had picked out, trying to stay out of the way. I had long since learned it was the best way to help with the first day of moving. There would be plenty for me to do towards settling in once the movers had finished.
I remember looking out over the lawn, enjoying the colors and scents of late spring. I closed my eyes and breathed in deeply, almost able to taste the sweetness of the flowers on the back of my tongue. I heard the hum of the bees and felt the warmth of the sunshine and decided that I’d rather be outside than in. I don’t know who was more surprised when I pelted back down the stairs, dodging men and boxes with equal skill, but Mother just shrugged and went back to directing the movers. She knew if there was a problem, she’d hear about it soon enough, and frankly I think she was just glad to see some enthusiasm.
I decided to find out what smelled so wonderful, so I carefully skirted the truck and ramp and padded out into the yard. I remember thinking how meticulous our landlord must be because the flowerbeds in front of the house were simply gorgeous – a riot of colors and smells that blended together to form an eye-pleasing palette.
I remember taking the time to smell everything, even the greenery before approaching what I thought was a tree drapes in purple flowers. Imagine my surprise when I discovered the tree was simply thickly wound vines of purple flowers. And the scent... it was the last thing I remember until I looked up into your eyes.
I remember most clearly thinking that the lavender of the flowers couldn’t possibly rival the color of your eyes... before turning my head in confusion when my mother came into view. Then I realized that I was surrounded by people I didn’t know and I tried to sit up, being totally embarrassed by whatever had caused me to be lying flat on the ground in the first place.
Only much later did we discover that I was simply overwhelmed by the perfume in the garden, and that, combined with the heat, a lack of food, the stress of being in a new place and a bee sting produced the unlooked for reaction of causing me to pass out. But it is one of my fondest memories, because it was the first time our paths crossed – unorthodox as that meeting was. Even at sixteen I recognized it as something... different. It would be years, though, before I came to understand just what had happened, or how it would change my life and the way I thought about everything.
But forever I will associate the scent of wisteria with you and spring in the garden. Do you remember?
I watch as the hummingbirds and butterflies flock to the sweet peas, attracted by its color and its light, delicate scent. It reminds me of the fall I went off to college for the first time. Do you remember?
Despite the fact that we were six years apart in age, we managed to become very good friends during my last two years of high school. Mother and Daddy thought the world of you, though I think they were a little confused about our friendship. I was never surprised that we became friends – that seemed as natural to me as breathing.
I do remember being surprised to find out that you were our landlord, however. Not that you weren’t bright enough. God knows I learned more from our talks than I did sitting through four years of college. And you obviously had a green thumb. I can’t count the days we spent out among the flowers just talking as we planted and weeded and watered and pruned. But I just didn’t think of you as someone involved in business. I only ever thought of you as my friend.
I remember the sweet peas blooming earlier than usual that year due to some unseasonably cool weather we’d had. We sat in the garden having coffee, watching the hummingbirds in silence. It wasn’t unusual. Our friendship had reached the stage that usually silence was as comforting as any words we exchanged, though we still had many lively conversations as well.
That day, however, the silence was just a little awkward. I’d fought with my parents the week before. They were moving again, and I didn’t want to go. With only ten days before I left for college, I couldn’t see traveling halfway across the country just to turn around and come back. Though they knew what I was saying made perfect sense, they didn’t want to admit I was grown-up now. I didn’t understand why – it wasn’t like I wasn’t going to be leaving for school shortly after they left for Daddy’s next duty station anyway.
It was only when you stepped in and offered me a place to stay for the duration that they agreed to my staying here. I know why you did it, and I really was grateful for your generosity, but it made me feel like I was being treated like a child. And that embarrassed me more than anything.
Still, I wasn’t mad at you. After all, you’d basically come to my rescue. But I couldn’t think of anything to say that didn’t sound petty, so we sat in silence – until you started to hum softly.
Then I couldn’t help but smile. You’ve always had one of the most intriguing voices I have ever heard, and when that voice vibrated with the sounds of my favorite song, it simply made me melt. My troubles and worries vanished under the spell you wove with the resonance of your song, and I took comfort in it. It was especially pleasing as it drew the birds closer to us. Not close enough to touch, but their curiosity of the sounds rumbling from deep in your chest was evident in the way they darted back and forth between you and the flowers.
I particularly remember the one that looked you in the eye for the longest moment as though intrigued that such a sound could come from such an odd looking creature. The expression on your face made me chuckle, and you cut your eyes at me and mock-growled. The hummingbird literally jumped back at that, racing back to its mates and my chuckle immediately turned to full blown laughter.
You glared at me for nearly a full sixty heartbeats before you began laughing, and suddenly the awkward tension between us was gone.
I remember the next few days flew by. I spent my time taking care of my final school preparations while you were working, and in the evenings we sat out in the garden having coffee, accompanied by the hum of the birds and butterflies and the bouquet of the sweet peas.
I remember the conversation we had the night before I left for school. It was the first inkling of hope I had that things between us might be changing – edging towards something I had only dreamed of. Dreams I’d thought were only those of a child with a crush. Nothing flagrant or overt in the words we shared; merely an inflection of tone, a twitch of a facial muscle, the touch of your hand.
But forever I will associate the aroma of sweet peas in the cool fall air with you and the beginning of possibilities between us. Do you remember?
Lilacs have a very short-live blossom, but its fragrance is one that is so easily recognized when it is in bloom. It reminds me of the last spring before I graduated college. Do you remember?
College was an enlightening time for me, as I suppose it is for most young adults. It gave me a freedom I’d never known before and I relished the opportunity to experience life on my own. Not that I went too far overboard, mind you. I thought about it, was even tempted by it for a while – until I realized that there was no temptation that could measure up to what I wanted with you.
It wasn’t easy. I was torn between wanting to be my own person and being someone that you and my parents could be proud of. The people I’d met couldn’t understand my reticence to indulge in some of the things they enjoyed, but eventually the ones who were my friends understood that I was happy not to do all the things they did and took to looking out for me instead. It was really kinda funny, but in retrospect, I appreciated it more than they will ever understand.
I remember college was a very confusing time for me as well. Holidays were hard. I knew my folks expected me to spend the time with them, but I found myself wanting to be with you instead. You came to visit me that first Thanksgiving, and I still can’t find the words to describe how wonderful it made me feel - mostly because it was a completely unexpected event in my life. The fact that you brought sweet peas from the garden just made it incredibly special.
That feeling made me dig in even harder... determined to make you proud of me, and I decided to focus all the effort I could muster on finishing my planned six-year course of study as quickly as I could manage.
I remember my parents didn’t understand my drive or my willingness to give up all my holidays and free time to finish early, but I think you did – because you made it a point to keep in touch as often as you could.
I remember we wrote and called regularly, but it wasn’t the same, and I missed the intimacy of our talks in the garden. We did manage to find some time to spend together during those four years, though it was difficult with your work schedule and my class load. Many times it was a flying visit from you on the tail-end of a business trip, but I so looked forward to those moments in time, even though all we did was talk – they were the brightest spots in my college career.
Finally, I was done, ahead of schedule, and I made a choice – a choice to focus on you... on us, and for the first time in four years, I went home to you.
It was just coming on spring, and I had finished up everything I could before graduation rolled around. My hard work and concerted effort had paid off and now I had a couple months before it was official and I got my diplomas. I didn’t phone you. I just hopped in my car and started for the one place I called home. Do you remember?
I came into the garden and you were kneeling in front of the lilac bush cutting off blossoms to take into the house. I watched you for a long silent moment, struck anew by your grace and beauty. I remember the moment you realized you were not longer alone. Your movements stilled and you slowly raised your eyes to meet mine.
Time stopped. I remember being astounded at the fact that everything I had ever heard about this moment was true, but paled in comparison to the reality of what we were now sharing. Your eyes, those beautiful eyes looked at me with love and longing, desire and joy and I knew my own reflected the same fiercely back to you. For the first time we came together as more than friends. We came together as lovers and it was all that I hoped for and more than I ever imagined it could be.
But forever I will associate the fragrance of lilacs with you and the burgeoning of our newly admitted love. Do you remember?
The sweet scent of orange blossoms bears promise of the fruit to come and for us it bore the promise of a future together. Do you remember?
I remember when my dream job came through just as winter settled into its stride. It was perfect – everything I wanted from employment except for one major point. It was half a world away from you. I was ready to flip hamburgers just to stay by your side. Then you convinced me to take it... assuring me it was the opportunity of a lifetime that I might not get a second chance at.
My heart broke. Though my mind understood what you were saying, and even recognized the truth in your words, my soul felt the rending from yours and my heart could only comprehend that I was being sent away.
I wasn’t sure we would survive this separation – not now. We hadn’t been lovers for even a year yet, and my pain was so incredible as I got ready to leave you again that I nearly missed your agony in my effort to pull myself away from it. I remember looking into your eyes at the airport as we prepared to say goodbye for what could have been forever. I finally realized that this was as hard for you as it was for me. It was even harder, perhaps, as you were deliberately standing aside to let me try this and I had been pushing you away.
I remember your eyes melting as my filled with tears at this revelation. You saw the moment I truly understood what you were doing and what it was costing you. I remember you putting a finger to my lips to halt any apologies or explanations, shaking your head.
“Go,” you whispered. “You have to try. I’ll be here.”
I nodded, though all I wanted to do was crawl into your arms and never let go. We kissed and I smelled the spicy scent of the garden on your skin. It was a smell particular to you I realized, and I breathed in deeply, settling the fragrance into my heart and soul and mind. I would need it for the days ahead.
I remember the flight attendant giving me a cellophane box as I buckled my seatbelt. The scent of orange blossoms from the garden wafted up to me when I opened it. I don’t remember very much after that.
I remember the tremor in your voice when I called to let you know I was coming home. It had been almost a year, and I couldn’t stand the separation any longer. My dream job was nothing but a nightmare without you there to share it with.
The ride home was a blur. I remember you ushered me into the garden – the air perfumed once more by the orange blossoms that were in full bloom on the trees. I took a deep breath, savoring their aroma while I gathered together my courage. I had come home with a single-minded purpose, and it was time to fulfill that objective.
I remember my surprise... my utter breathlessness... when I turned around and found you on your knees in front of me. I remember dropping to my knees despite your protestations and the smile my stubbornness evoked in your beautiful eyes.
I remember finding my arms full of orange blossoms, and nestled in the middle of the bouquet, a ring and a promise. I remember your astonishment when I returned the gesture in kind. And there in the garden surrounded by the sweet spiciness of the flowers you had cultivated for years, we whispered promises to one another that we would eventually share before our family and friends.
But forever I will associate the perfume of orange blossoms with you and the beginning of our lives intertwining. Do you remember?
Roses have long been a flower associated with love, but they each possess their own fragrance and meaning. We spent the next spring through fall exchanging hopes and messages through the flowers we shared with one another. Do you remember?
I remember that first late spring morning that I woke up and found a thornless, lavender rose lying on your pillow. I immediately lifted it up and sniffed its light fragrance, as enchanted with the gesture as the flower conveyed you were about me. And I remember being determined to return the favor because I could feel your love surrounding me by the thought and care you took in choosing the perfect rose and taking the thorns off.
I went out to the garden, glad for the multitude of colors and varieties you had always grown there. I realized then it had been your way of communicating with me before you ever said a word about your thoughts and feelings. Only your eyes were more expressive than your flowers, and the flowers would allow me to speak back to you without words as well.
I remember choosing a cream colored rose, its perfection matched only by the feeling I had in your arms. I de-thorned it as well, and placed it in your office, knowing you would see it there first.
We took care and the blooms lasted a little more than a week before I took them and pressed them between two huge tomes in the library. It was the beginning of a shadowbox that hangs in the foyer to this day.
The next week I got the jump on you, and I stood in the bathroom doorway to see the surprise when you found the peach rose on your towel. You understood well what I was saying and a crook of your finger brought us together. The rose nearly didn’t survive what it had started, but it did make its way into the shadowbox and the deep pink bud you gave me later that day said more than words could convey.
I remember the summer being filled with the giving of colorful, fragrant flowers. Yellow and pink roses were followed by white and burgundy, orange and champagne. And always there were the deep red ones interspersed throughout which expressed the deep, abiding love and passion we shared together. Our home was filled with vibrancy and perfume as we exchanged bits of our hearts from the garden, and the shadowbox filled out beautifully into a well-scented, richly hued montage of our love for one another.
The last roses of the summer were the flowers we carried when we spoke our vows in front of our families and friends. Well, your family – my folks were out of the country. The garden itself was a riot of color and scent. Petunias, pansies, snapdragons and verbena joined the sweet peas, impatiens and dahlias in creating a vivid, flamboyant background that would be an integral part of our memories.
I remember being overwhelmed by the bouquets that decorated our makeshift altar. There among the mass of flora from our garden were all the blossoms that held special significance for us. I wondered how you had managed the sprigs of lilacs and wisteria, but I didn’t ask. I preferred to think of it as your own special brand of magic. You always had a bit of that, you know.
I remember the sun shining brightly, the cool breeze that stirred the perfumed air surrounding us and the love that reflected so fiercely in your eyes that even the flowers couldn’t compare to their vitality. And I remember the intense happiness that course through my soul at the thought of being yours for eternity. It was a feeling that nothing, not even the color and scents surrounding us, could compare to.
But forever I will associate the essence of roses with you and the beginning of our married life and our public commitment to one another. Do you remember?
It is the cusp of spring once more, and the warmth of the sun soaks into my bones as I sit here in the garden. The light scent of lilies surrounds me as I sit here and reminisce on paper, just as it has every spring we have spent here since we first met. Do you remember?
The years have come and gone, marked by the passing of the seasons so evident in the garden. And yet we have continued to make memories that tie into the flowers we have cultivated here. So much of our life has been wrapped up in this place and so much of our story can be told by the garden we have grown together.
I remember when you introduced me to gardening. I remember being terrified I had a black thumb and would kill all the beauty your efforts had created. I remember your patience and the gentle joy you showed as I slowly learned to cultivate the splendor you had already achieved.
We’ve shared so much love and contentment together, and always my delight has been tied to you and to the pleasure we’ve created in our home that is so clearly reflected in the living mosaic of our garden. We shared our laughter and our tears, our happiness and our pain, our triumphs and our tragedies here among the flowers we fostered to fruition.
So now, as we celebrate another Valentine’s Day together, I just wanted to remind you how much I love you; to thank you for the many blessings you’ve shared with me and ask....
Do you remember?
Return to the Valentine Stories
Return to the Academy