The Year Love Bloomed


“Flowers are easy.” With angry kitchen shears, I lopped off stems from the innocent red blooms.

My husband bought roses—again—this time for our wedding anniversary. I sounded spoiled and ungrateful around girlfriends whose vases gathered dust. But I viewed each bouquet as a lazy man’s gift.

I caressed dried alphabet soup letters painstakingly glued to a card my husband made our first Christmas together. The next year, a homemade Valentine declared his love to be sweeter than his favorite Dutch apple ice cream. He whittled necklaces from twigs and designed a leather key chain. Back then he channeled his artistic talent into thoughtful and affectionate tokens.

Thirteen years and four children later, my kindhearted companion had fallen into a roses-only rut.

For the record, my husband never forgot my birthday or other celebratory day. He remembered every milestone with a colorful floral tribute.

One day, I gently explained, “Knowing the flowers are on their way makes them lose their appeal and their surprise.”

He looked into my eyes and nodded. Message received!

The next week, my sweet man brought me tulips. For no reason at all. Surprise!

Now, more multiflorous arrangements arrived between the expected rose bouquets. Daisies and lilies wilted while making way for carnations and chrysanthemums.

Then my husband’s job required relocating to Florida. Our California home needed renovations before selling. A friend managed a motel near Palm Springs, three hours away. My children and I stayed there. My husband’s weekend-only visits whizzed by in the clichéd belief that absence really makes the heart grow fonder.

With my thirty-first birthday falling on a weekday, my husband would no doubt send flowers to the motel. My two youngest children fondled anything new and bright. The expensive floral arrangement was doomed.

I sang a sorry rendition of Happy Birthday to Me. I felt the weight and responsibility of a part-time single mother.  

My son asked, “Can we go swimming?”

The rituals required for a simple dip hardly seemed like a birthday celebration; diaper changes, inflating arm floats, and the constant counting of heads.  

We set off on our daily trek to the pool. I double-checked our bags for suntan lotion, juice boxes, hats, sunglasses, and a mountain of towels. The minute my toe touched the water, I heard, “I haff to go to the baffroom.” We dumped our gear on two chairs. Like a mother duck leading her four towheaded ducklings, we waddled back to our room.

After ten minutes, we again settled poolside. I slathered sunscreen over tiny pink bodies. 

Coconut-oiled motel guests occupied the remaining lounge chairs. I watched my son dive and timed a daughter holding her breath. The two youngest bobbed in the shallow end. I counted heads along with my many blessings.

A man dressed in a blue shirt and shorts, the uniform of the warm-weather mailman, approached the pool fence. “Kimberlee Esselstrom?” Heads swiveled. He called again.

He impressed me by properly pronounced my long Scandinavian last name.

Me? I raised my hand.

The postman walked to my lounge chair as I pulled children from the water. “I couldn’t leave this at the front desk.” He handed me a four-inch stack of envelopes bound by rubber bands. “I had to meet you.” He winked. “Are you famous or something?”

Marco Polo stopped. People stared. Celebrity sightings are common in Southern California.

“It’s my birthday.” I blushed.

“Happy birthday, Kimberlee,” he shouted. “You’re one special lady.” He whistled and returned to his route. Strangers clapped and called out birthday wishes.

Back at the room, I tore open the first few envelopes and let the kids open the rest—thirty-one cards. Yes, they were store-bought. But my husband wrote a unique sentiment in each. Even though he worked during the day, then labored on our house in the evenings, my husband took precious time to make me feel like a superstar.

Ignoring unappreciative me, my husband began a birthday tradition for our daughters: purple flowers for our youngest, pink roses for our oldest, and turquoise assortments for our middle daughter.

Occasionally, my grown children send me flowers because they know I secretly loved them all along.


Pin It on Pinterest