Human Condition: Buttercups trigger sweet memories of childhood _lowres


My sister and I were blessed in that our grandparents lived across the street from us in Lecompte, where we grew up. They were already retired when I was born. They were not wealthy people but they spoiled my sister and me with lots of their time and love. We were, in their own words, their “gold children.”

There are so many things that conjure up pleasant childhood memories of my grandparents. Take pansies, fo example. In the fall as the pansies started to bloom, Grandmother and I would examine each one and talk about the expression on each little “face.” Some were happy, some sad, but they were all beautiful. The dark purple ones were my favorite; they reminded me of a velvet ribbon I once had on a Christmas dress. I think about those conversations every time I see pansies.

Fresh corn on the cob is another reminder. My grandfather was the gardener, and I learned so much from him. What a miracle to get a stalk of corn after planting seeds in the dirt! The best part was loading corn into my Radio Flyer wagon and walking to Mr. Tony Marino’s grocery store to sell it. After the transaction, we would cross the street to Mrs. Myer’s store and spend some of our profit on either a “Grapette” drink or a vanilla ice cream cone — 5 cents each. Grandmother would often boil corn for lunch. My grandfather said I reminded him of a mule because I ate it so noisily. I remember him every time I eat corn on the cob.

But perhaps no single reminder is as strong as the sight of the pink primroses that are now springing up along the highways. You may know these wildflowers as Pink Ladies, Pink Evening Primrose or just Primrose. The scientific name is Oenothera speciosa, but to Grandmother, they were buttercups, and that is what I have always called them.

In the early spring, Grandmother and I would get into her old navy blue Chevrolet and take a trip down the dusty dirt roads in search of buttercups. Hanging out the car window as Grandmother drove slowly, I would scan both sides of the road, looking for patches of the pink beauties. I was always the first to spot them.

We would make multiple stops to gather them. The best part was when you put the flower to your nose to smell it and you would get the yellow pollen all over your face! And the fragrance — it is just indescribable. There is no designer perfume at any price that can match it.

And while I have not picked buttercups in years, I can still “smell” them as I pass them on road. I think of my grandmother each time I see them. Now as a grandmother some 70 years later, I am hoping that my own “gold children” will, in time, be able to look back and recall memories that will be as special to them as mine are to me.

— Fowler lives in Baton Rouge

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