So when I was a kid, there was a little tree planted underneath one of the sets of stairs at our apartment complex. I used to play outside every day with Aaron, and sometimes his older sister Destiny. They lived in apartment number 6, we were in 4. Aaron and I had a total blast (and pretended we didn’t know each other at school, because, for some reason, boys and girls didn’t play together at that age).
Our imagination games included sneaking around as spies on an alien planet, escaping from danger across lava-encrusted landscapes, and of course all the special outdoor-laboratory secret-recipe concoctions we could think up. There were little red berries from the special “landscaping” plants against the front of the building, and flowers. Oh, the flowers.
The tree was small, but somehow flourished for a while under those stairs. It produced these compact little buds, which would grow and open up and become these white flowers that had a million petals. The problem was, the buds were so much fun to play with. If you plucked one, you could peel it. Starting with your fingernail under the first couple thick, protective layers. Until the texture changed. More wet than velvet, but still softer than skin.
You could peel, and peel, and peel. It would get smaller, but each petal was so thin, and wrapped around the bud so tightly. You had to be careful to choose which one to peel, to make sure you were getting the outer-most. You didn’t want to cheat yourself out of the full experience by peeling off too many at once.
We plucked and peeled so many of those things. I think I had a really long, drawn-out version of “He loves me, he loves me not” at one point. (If you have to ask…yes, it was about Aaron, but that bud never flowered—they moved away when I was in fifth grade, and we are Facebook friends now–I don’t think he ever had romantic feelings for me). There were petals and small red berries mixed up with mud and those little purple flowers that grew on those long stalks.
As an adult, I can see now that we are probably the reason that the poor tree had to be replaced with a braided ficus. Nowhere near as fun, but definitely more hardy. When I think about it, though, I remember how much I loved those buds—and how much I hated the actual flowers. I can see why some people think flowers are a thing of beauty. They’re Nature, they’re pretty colors, fun shapes. And I still love me some daffodils and daisies, all the way. BUT. Those many-petaled white flowers. Do you know what would happen to them when they fell off the tree? When they were wilted and browning? I do. Because we picked everything apart in those days.
The decayed, bug-infested hearts of those flowers is not something you easily forget. Even a flower that looks fine on the outside can have that rotten core. That stuck with me, the disgust I felt upon finding that. And now, when I look at a flower, I find that the amount I like it is inversely proportional to its capacity to hide a rotting heart. Roses—eww. Carnations, slightly better, but only because you can see mostly to the center. Daffodils and daisies, great. They wilt in super predictable ways, and are light and charming. Lilies—it gets too dark down at their cores. Same with irises. Snapdragons, half-and-half, because they’re awesome to play with, but could be hiding bugs in their little mouths.
So, why didn’t we have real flowers at our wedding? Because I just don’t like them enough. More than half of them freak me out. And they die quickly, and dying flowers are depressing. Give me raindrops over flowers any day—preferably falling on fresh berry bushes. That’s a beautiful slice of Nature.