Saturday, August 15, 2009


When I was five years old I went to my first funeral. I hadn't been that close to my great aunt, but I do remember her house, with the creaky wood floors and the lace table cloth in the kitchen. She kept bowls of swirly candies on the end tables in the living room and the air there smelled like roasting chicken and lilac store perfume. When we came to visit, we entered through a side door off the kitchen, where she would greet us in a pretty tea dress and a wide, gum-showing smile.
At the service I wore my pale yellow, eyelet Easter dress and white sandals that went between my toes. Off to the side of the sanctuary, was a section reserved for family, veiled by a sheer burgundy curtain, where I sat dangling my feet and fidgeting, next to my grandma. On the other side of me my mom shushed my brother and told him to stop acting so squirly. Peering through the folds of fabric in the curtain, I watched the people blowing their noses and dabbing their eyes.
After a while all us family members stood up and formed a line in the side isle of the church, my grandma took my hand as we shuffled slowly towards the alter. My stomach growled and I remembered the promise of deviled eggs my mom had given me, if I was a good girl. When we reached the front of the church my mom hesitated a moment and turned to shake her head at my grandma. With a rise of her chin, grandma motioned mom to keep moving. From several feet below them, I watched as mom frowned and whispered something and grandma tightened her lips. We pressed towards the front of the church where a large wooden box was surrounded by red roses and pink carnations. From behind, my grandma lifted me and I could feel my panties show as my dress scrunched under my arms. In the box was my great auntie, all painted up with too much rouge and dark red lipstick, and smelling of lilac store perfume. I don't remember screaming or even crying very loudly, but my grandma wrestled me tightly into her chest and rushed me out the side door.
Stepping outside she quickly put me down and reached in her purse for a cigarette. Sniffling, I squinted up at her, wiping my nose with my forearm. She wore a pink, copy of a Channel, skirt suit and light pink Mary Kay lipstick. She peered down at me through the swirls of smoke and said, "It's ok, honey, you're okay now."
I stood there staring at her for a moment, feeling the touch of the sun on my shoulders. My Oma, that's Dutch for grandma, much preferred the company of her poodle Suzette, than that of people. She smiled weakly as she inhaled a deep drag of smoke.
The sun massaged my back and warmed the top my head, I closed my eyes and turned my face to the light. I took in a deep breath and let out a great sigh and then opened my eyes. And that is when I saw them. There must have been ten thousand, maybe more. Bright, giant King Alfred Daffodils raising their faces along with mine in the warmth of the sun. "Oh, I gasped, "Oh, Oma, look at them all! They are so pretty!" There seemed to be an endless sea of them. I ran down the path that wove through the center of the church garden and climbed atop the cement retaining wall that surrounded the flowers. Stretching my arms up to the sky, I skipped and giggled and thanked the flowers for their beauty and for being so very, very yellow. "Oh Oma, have you ever seen anything so beautiful?"
She came through the path and stood next to me, near the wall. "Now you be careful up there honey, I don't want you to fall." She smiled again, nervously this time, but with a little more warmth in her eyes
But I wasn't afraid to fall, because what she didn't know was that daffodils made the world seem safe...