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The daffodil rescue mission

People say, ‘Bloom where you’re planted,’ but things happen.
By Meg Barnhouse

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I saw hundreds of daffodils blooming in front of the house where I used to live. I was dropping off my sons’ roller blades at their dad’s. They were going to be there with him for the next five days. They’ve gone back and forth between mom’s house and dad’s house since we separated. I left the house with the daffodils when the marriage ended. Seeing them blooming stirred up feelings of loss, guilt, and longing.

When a friend of mine was a girl she used to pass a yard on her way to school that was covered with daffodils in late winter. She thought people with so many daffodils were rich beyond imagining. Today she feels rich according to how many daffodils she has blooming in her yard.

So I called her one day in February to help me with a daffodil rescue mission. Some land across from the entrance to our neighborhood had been cleared of trees in preparation for a new strip mall. Construction had been delayed, and grass had grown back over the lot where the trees had been piled up and burned. Along one edge of the clearing was a mass of jonquils, narcissus, and daffodils in shades of yellow: butter, lemon, saffron, and gold. Bulldozers don’t concern themselves with beauty. I knew, once construction started, the bulbs would be torn up and thrown away.

I decided they had to be rescued. I called the development company to find whom to ask for the bulbs. The receptionist didn’t quite know who could give me permission to move the flowers. I wound up talking to the company’s owner. He said go ahead and take them.

My friend and I met at my house on a warm morning. My wheelbarrow made a racket rolling up the street to the place where the daffodils were blooming, the place where the strip mall was going to be. We dug hundreds of bulbs—three wheelbarrow loads. We were wealthy women by the time we packed the last glowing jonquil onto the pile of plants. Back in my yard we divided them between us. I picked a couple of spots and planted them all the next afternoon.

Some of them are doing fine. There is one group, though, that isn’t doing well. They never have done well since I transplanted them. I think they liked where they used to be. Maybe they don’t understand why they had to move. It’s hard to explain a strip mall to a daffodil. I knew if they stayed where they were they would never have bloomed again.

People say, “Bloom where you’re planted,” but things happen. Circumstances change. Development is not always controllable. Sometimes you have to move to bloom. It's hard to explain divorce to a child. They are doing OK, moving back and forth between dad’s house and mine, but it’s a big change for them. Being transplanted brings hard changes if you’re a daffodil or if you’re a grown woman, if you’re a wild jonquil or a well-loved little boy.

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