Volume 2 Issue 4: Red

The Lover of Tulips

Kelli J Gavin

My father is Dutch. My mother is Sicilian. This always made for an interesting pairing. They were also polar opposites in every aspect of life. My mom was the coordinator, the lover of large groups, the outgoing one. My father, the quiet, solitary one who seemed to always be in search of some sort of unobtainable knowledge. But even my dad was never quite sure exactly what he was searching for. One thing that my parents had in common was a love for the outdoors. 

We lived in the country on about two acres of land. Surrounded by woods and tall, mature trees on every side, my parents sectioned off a large portion of our property for a garden. We grew peas, green beans, potatoes and carrots, tomatoes, corn, rhubarb, cucumbers, zucchini and squash. And flowers. My mother loved gladiolus and lilies. She adored planting them in every color and went out of her way to grow as many as possible. She loved daisies and lilacs. Our lilac bush was no longer a bush, but now separated our yard from our neighbor’s yard. It was about 8 feet tall and the size of my bedroom. 

My parents worked together in garden all summer long, planting and weeding and watering. My dad took care of mowing our large lawn and my mom took care of edging around the house and trees. Perfect example of teamwork in marriage. My father enjoyed bringing new seeds or bulbs home, and sometimes brought home buckets full of items that would need to be immediately planted. He often would barter his services as a contractor for new items that he could bring home and grow. One year it was incredibly beautiful pussy willows. The next year it was grape vines which he thoroughly enjoyed cultivating and turning into wine. The wine tasted horrible yet he labored vigorously over the entire scientific process. He took deep satisfaction in his new hand crafted swill. 

One early spring afternoon, he came home from work with huge bucket filled with pink lilies and an unknown flower. “Now, I got these for free. There is no guarantee that they will even grow this year, but let’s plant them right away and water them. Let’s see what we can grow!”

“Dad, those look like lilies, but what is in the second bucket?” I asked inquisitively. 

“I don’t know,” my dad answered. “But that is half the fun!”

My mom came outside when she saw my dad shoveling out holes in the dirt and me sifting through the bulbs in the buckets that were already sprouting green. She immediately approached carrying the long water hose that was attached the house. She instructed me to not pull the clusters of the bulbs apart that were in the bucket of unknown origin. “I think those are tulips. See how the green tips slightly curl at the end?”

I lit up. “Tulips? Really?” I was so excited. I loved tulips. 

“We will just have to wait and see. Like I said, no guarantees that they will even grow this season, but it will be fun taking care of them and seeing what happens!” My dad enjoyed this as much as I did. 

So I took it upon myself to care for these lilies and flowers that could possibly be tulips. Tulips had always been one of my favorite flowers, and I desperately wanted them to grow. Not next year, but right now. I watered them with the hose daily and checked on them. I weeded all around them every few the days. The lilies thrived as the weather got quite warm early that summer. The flowers of unknown origin were small, continued to grow beautiful green stems.  

One afternoon, I came home from school and my mom met me on the front porch. Smiling ear to ear, “Your flowers have bulbs forming on the tops of them. They are edged in red. Every single one of them.”  

I dropped my book bag on the bottom cement stair that lead up to our 3 bedroom ranch home and ran as fast as I could around the corner of the house. Into the garden, I continued to race to the back left quadrant where our experimental portion was located. I knelt down quickly, and there in front of me were 50 plus red rimmed unopened tulip flower bulbs. I gasped. Red tulips were my absolute favorite. And I was going to have 50+ of them. I believe I screamed with excitement and found my mom standing behind me. “I love them too, babe.”

Within four days, each and every single red tulip bulb opened. 52 red tulips. It felt like Christmas and that I had received the best gift ever. My mom pulled out the Polaroid Instant Camera and asked me to sit behind the flowers on the edge of the garden. She had two pictures left on the Polaroid. Neither of them turned out as the sun was too bright, but the image will forever be ingrained in my mind. We cut about half and brought them inside. We created a gorgeous vase for the center of our large kitchen table where we ate the majority of our meals. And another vase of red tulips was placed in the front living room on top of the stereo. 

I sat at every meal for the next 6 days smiling ear to ear at the red tulips in the middle of the table. And I didn’t watch much television in the evenings as I was distracted by the red beauty in the living room.  

Thirty plus years later, this is one of the memories that I often share with others. My parents passed on a love of the outdoors and God’s Creation. I have a plan to plant 100 red bulbs this year that I will cut and share with others. Because everyone deserves a bit of red beauty in their lives. 


Kelli J Gavin lives in Carver, Minnesota with Josh, her husband of an obscene amount of years and they have two crazy kids. She is a Writer, Professional Organizer and owns Home & Life Organization. You can find her work with The Inner Circle Writers’ Group, The Ugly Writers, Sweatpants & Coffee, Writing In a Woman’s Voice, The Writers Newsletter, Writer’s Unite!, Academy of the Heart and Mind, The Rye Whiskey Review, Spillwords, Mercurial Stories, 121 Words, Hickory Stump, Rabid Oak, HerStry, Ariel Chart, The Basil O’Flaherty, PPP Ezine, Southwest Media, Otherwise Engaged, Story Pub, and The New Ink Review, among others. 

Find Kelli on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @KelliJGavin
Blog found at kellijgavin.blogspot.com

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