05 April 2012


Today is my mom's birthday. She would have been 87. Her favorite flowers were roses, but she had a big soft spot for daffodils, too, which are my favorite flower. I have some planted in my yard, but they never have done very well. Maybe it is our mild climate here in California that doesn't chill the bulbs sufficiently, but I often get a beautiful clump of foliage and no flowers at all, or maybe one or two scrawny blooms.

But just because I can't grow them doesn't mean I can't enjoy them, due to the yearly daffodil ritual at Trader Joe's. Every year in early spring, there are suddenly boxes and buckets and jars filled with daffodil bunches on the verge of blooming, for sale for about a dollar a bunch, and I go wild. I buy six or seven bunches at a time, take them home, and scatter them throughout my house. I have a collection of wall pockets, so I stick a few in each of them, and have walls sprouting cheery yellow for a couple of weeks. It makes me happy.

A few years ago, I started bringing this ritual to my mom, too. She had a stroke about eight years ago, and after that was mostly homebound, so I would go visit her and Dad at the weekend and bring along three or four bunches of daffodils for their kitchen table.

For her birthday two years ago, I decided to give her the gift of permanent daffodils, so I painted her a picture. It was a bunch of the flowers in a little blue pitcher, sitting on my oak dining room table, with a brightly wrapped gift box sitting next to it. On this particular birthday, she was in a nursing home; my dad, who was her primary caregiver, had had open heart surgery and was recuperating, and since she couldn't be left alone, I installed them both in the same nursing home while he recovered from the surgery. I drove over that Saturday, taking a chocolate cake, some real daffodils, and the picture, and we had lunch, cake and presents together by Dad's hospital bed.

She loved the picture, and when I walked down the hall that night on my way to the car, I could hear her voice telling her roommate, "That was my daughter. She came over for my birthday--see the picture she painted for me?" I was so pleased that she liked it. But she only got to enjoy it for about seven hours; that night, she had another stroke, and passed away six days later without ever regaining consciousness.

I couldn't bear to hang the picture, but I didn't want to throw it out or give it away either, so it sat in my studio for a year. Then one of my cousins in Virginia happened to mention to my cousin Carol Sue how much she loved daffodils, so I gave the picture to Cos to send to her.

Ann Nemcosky on Every Day Matters put out a challenge in early March, asking everyone to paint daffodil pictures and send them to her (http://nemcoskyart.blogspot.com/2012/03/daffodil-festival.html), and I wanted to do it, but I couldn't find any. I kept stopping at Trader Joe's every week, and every week they told me, "Not yet," and then one day one of the assistant managers said, "We're not getting them this year." I was so disappointed. But this weekend, I discovered that he lied--I went to TJ's and there they were, the boxes and barrels of bright yellow blooms. I brought bunches home, and sat down yesterday morning to paint them. I haven't been painting much lately, and I couldn't seem to get control of the colors. The result is a bit clumsy. I'm going to go get some more on Saturday and try again, but I'm posting this one today anyway, for Mom.

This is a weird little pot with drippy glaze on it--
I found it nearly impossible to duplicate, so I just dropped color on it.

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