Thursday, May 30, 2013


The other day I was walking past a neighbor's front garden,
and I noticed the pale pink peonies that grow there had already come and gone.
I always look forward to them each May because of their fragrant, full flowers
and because they make me nostalgic for the gardens of the Midwest
where I grew up. Even more so since peonies are less common here in the Shire.
But peonies are the flower for May in the Midwest.


In the Midwest, old-fashioned peonies once grew in every garden;
many of the plants were decades old, 
 lovingly tended through generations.
My mom had a row of pink and white peonies 
growing in front of the porch on our house.
And all of my mom's friends and my aunts and grandmothers all grew peonies.
There is nothing more intoxicating than the creamy sweet fragrance of peonies.

Pink, dark pink, and white peonies often filled the church altar
or decorated kitchen tables.
Of course, this time of year, May 30, the original Decoration Day in 1868
(now Memorial Day) found many peonies placed on the graves of loved ones
lost during the Civil War era. The tradition of remembering loved ones 
with peonies and roses and flowers called "beauties" 
on Memorial Day continued through many years, but has begun to fade.

Peonies are said to be symbolic of healing
and have a history of thousands of years in China.
But to me, peonies will always be uniquely American--
because I can't imagine my cherished family traditions without them.

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