Buttercups

Buttercups

by Barbara Lee on June 14, 2012

I have always liked the warm, cheery color yellow.  Maybe I associate it with the sunny days of summer when I went running through the grass swooping up dandelions and buttercups into a hasty bouquet for my mother.  Appropriately, the buttercup symbolizes childishness.  In a little childhood game a flower is placed on the chin, if the chin turns yellow, the person likes butter.  Surely my chin must have turned a bright yellow as I do love butter.

The buttercup grows freely in meadows, empty lots, and in your yard.  I was attracted to this cheerful yellow bloom when I was quite young and just beginning my floral preferences.  My grandfather would take me to play at an old fort near our home where I could sit on a canon and scan the horizon for a naval invasion.  But the waters were quiet except for the call of seagulls.  So I turned my attention to the overgrown grass and the stone steps that led to a look out.  Wild flowers grew here, worms wiggled, and dragonflies dallied.  Fat bees supped on clover and bright buttery flowers flecked the green grass.  These were the buttercups I loved and these were the flowers I wanted.

My grandfather agreed we needed them in our already burgeoning garden.  Although he seemed to think of them as weeds, he was willing to sacrifice his garden bed with the addition of my fanciful choice.

Down on his knees in perfectly creased trousers he set to digging up a cluster of buttercups.  I watched him carefully separate the roots from the soil as he dislodged the small plant from its home.  He spread out his white handkerchief as if to lay it out for a picnic lunch.  Instead, this ironed square became a receptacle for our horticultural contraband.

As we slowly drove through the exit, my grandfather gave a casual wave to the young guard.  I worried that our spoils would be discovered and torn from my grasp. But we were free, no questions asked.

I held this yellow cluster of buttercups on my lap for the short ride home, the earthy dampness seeping through the handkerchief to my seersucker shorts. I studied the shiny leaves and counted all the petals.

Upon arrival home, we selected a place to plant them.  Carefully, my grandfather lowered the roots into a hole and together we pushed fresh soil over them.  I gripped the metal watering can with my small hands and gave my flowers a welcoming shower.

Stepping back, I admired our handiwork.  My yellow contribution brightened this corner of the yard where it shone its innocent beauty to the rest of the garden. I was thrilled to have my buttercups, a yellow beacon in a border of purple. This was my first gardening decision and I knew it was a good one.

A child’s wish was indulged that afternoon and the memory of the buttercup caper still beats in my adult heart.

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