ROBIN WRITES: Poppy is a heavenly reminder | Columns
As soon as my brothers got on the school bus that Friday morning in May, I put on my pink sneakers and tied the laces. The bows looked like floppy bunny ears, as they should. It was time for mom and me to take our weekly walk to Kroger.
“There we go. Let’s go!” she cried in a voice that made my insides scream HOORAY!
She came down the road fast enough for me to hurry, but slow enough to protect me. I watched the hem of her dress rustle against the back of her knees and marveled at the rhythm and cadence of her steps:
Kroger. Kroger. Here we are. Here we are.
I hopped behind her as she walked, trying to keep my body in the shadow of hers.
Kroger was a wonderland of women and goods. Our cart wound down the narrow aisles as its squeaky wheels creaked on dull squares of once-white linoleum.
Mom had a list to follow. She read the articles as we walked, and I ran ahead to find each one. At the checkout, the cashier announced the prices and filled in the blanks between the numbers with friendly conversation.
I stood quietly next to mom to hear her talk and laugh. But I was looking out of the store’s huge window.
A grandmother-aged woman stood near the glass. She wore a pale blue dress that stretched tightly over her body and made red lines around her swaying arms. She was holding a shiny yellow bucket. The plastic glinted in the sun as she moved her body from side to side, looking this way and that.
There was something in that bucket. I knew it, because she kept reaching, tickling with fleshy fingers. Its touch felt soft and I thought the contents must be breakable.
By the time Mom finished her visit with the cashier, my legs were itching to fly on the sidewalk.
The bucket lady jumped in front of us with a huge body movement and a flowery smile.
She reached inside the bucket, stirred the contents like a stew, and pinched two yellow fingernails against a short green thread. She pulled gently, and with the gesture of a magician – PRESTO – a red paper flower appeared in her sweaty, weathered hand.
I did not see a price on the flower. Maybe that was what was on the strip of paper along the stem. Mom had very little money, and she probably used it all at Kroger.
“It’s a gift. For you, Robin,” mum whispered. I raised my hand to take the flower from the Lady of the Poppy and heard coins clink in mum’s hand. the bucket. They bumped into each other as they pushed the flowers aside and fell to the bottom.
Mom and I headed back home. I tenderly held the red poppy in my free hand and twirled it between my fingers like a little umbrella.
“Why did you buy me this?” ” I asked. Mom said it was just for me, but who was it from? I saw Mom’s shadow stop moving and it shortened as she leaned down to speak softly in my ear.
“This is a special flower. It will help you remember how much you are loved by the people you will meet one day in paradise. It is for Memorial Day. It means ‘REMEMBER’.
I held this flower close to my face, studying the small lines and colors of the crepe paper. I waved my poppy skyward, a salute of gratitude to those waiting there.
And every Memorial Day, for the rest of my life, I buy a poppy. I wave it skyward with a depth of love that grows year by year.