Sunday, April 11, 2010

One Yellow Bell

By Cheryl-Anne Millsap
Special to Spokesman-Review Pinch
March 22, 2010

Undressing, I slipped my hand into the pocket of my skirt and pulled out one single small flower. A forsythia bloom. A tiny yellow bell.

I’d forgotten it was there.

I have a habit of dropping things into my pocket, like an overgrown child, and often find odds and ends like buttons and stones and flowers there at the end of the day. Sometimes I hear something rattling in the washer or dryer, or discover the crumpled remains in a suitcase and remember too late.

Today, one of those gray and chilly early March days that belie the coming spring, I was hurrying headlong from one meeting to another and I almost walked by the flowering shrub without noticing it. But the bright yellow blooms stood out against the gray of the building and the dry winter soil and caught my eye. I stopped.

Do you know those black and white photographs where only one thing - a red rose, or pink heart or a child’s face- is tinted so that it grabs your eye? That’s what the forsythia looked like to me. Like I’d stepped into the frame of a monochromatic photo.

I didn’t have a lot of time so I moved on to open the door of the building. But then I didn’t. At the last minute I turned back and pinched one single bloom and dropped it into my pocket. Twice during the power point - there is always a Power Point - I pulled it out and looked at it before putting it away again.

Over the years there have been a lot of flowers.

As a child, I spent hours on hot summer days picking clover from the patch that always grew in the backyard no matter how hard they tried to get rid of it. My grandmother showed me how to make a small slit in the stem of one flower and then slip another through to be strung together in a chain and draped around my neck or twined in my hair. My sister and I would work to see who could make the longest chain. Inevitably, I would find a flower later, still caught in my curls or where it had fallen into a pocket or the cuff of my shorts.

When my children came along they often brought a flower to me. Tiny blue Vincas that bloomed in the ground cover. Dandelions that had escaped the mower. Lion-faced pansies from the flower beds or a rogue Johnny-Jump-Up that popped up at the base of the tall pine trees in the front yard. Rosebuds, small and perfect like soft seashells growing on a vine.

Victorian women spent hours pasting flowers, leaves and even seaweed into albums. They labeled each specimen with with spidery script and ink. They wanted a tangible reminder of such things. Me? I occasionally stumble onto a flower pressed between the pages of whatever book I was reading at the time, but for the most part, they are scattered in my memory. Like dandelion wings in the wind. Like a carpet of rose petals in the garden. Like a tiny yellow bell in my pocket.

Cheryl-Anne Millsap is a freelance columnist for The Spokesman-Review. She is the author of “Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons,” and can be reached at

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