I pick a pretty daffodil from the vase on the sideboard. But then they’re all pretty, aren’t they, Jenny? I gently stroke the soft silken surface of the flower and tears stream down my face. Daffodils were always your favourite.
They were just coming into bloom on the day you were born. I was standing outside Mrs Farmer’s house at the time. It had been such a miserable morning with fog, rain, sleet, even some snow; everything apart from sunshine. But Mrs Farmer’s daffodils made everything sunny. And then my waters broke. I forgot all about daffodils after that. But you didn’t, did you, Jenny?
On a bright spring day, we would often take a trip to the park. We’d pass the sea of yellow in Mrs Farmer’s garden along the way.
‘Daffs, daffs,’ you would shout, your chubby arms pointing and a huge grin on your face.
You were always such a sunny child, like your favourite flower. We didn’t have a lot in those days. Your father hadn’t long left us. It turned out he had been seeing Mrs Charlton at number three for the past year. So it was a bit of a struggle for the two of us all on our own. But we survived, didn’t we, Jenny?
You loved the dolls and dresses I made you and poorly panda bear, as you named him. Knitting was never my strong point, but you didn’t care. You loved them all. You always followed me round, doll or panda in one hand and a duster in the other, replenishing the sticky marks I had just wiped away.
But best of all, you loved the big outside. It was such a shame we didn’t have a garden of our own. That’s the thing about flats. So we went out instead, especially to the park. You loved the swings. Swings and looking at everyone’s best blooms bursting with colour. Mrs Farmer’s garden was the best. She used to be on the television, performing miracles with someone’s mud and mayhem of a garden.
When you were a little bit older, you walked to the park. You always stopped outside Mrs Farmer’s house. Your eyes would mist over and I could see you imagining yourself in her garden. Your eyes closed, conjuring up pictures of tiptoeing through the daffodils and glorious greens, stopping every now and then to smell or pick a flower that took your fancy. You would twirl round and round, a princess in her own secret garden.
‘The daffodils have gone,’ you said one day, squinting against the brilliance of the spring sunshine as it merged into early summer.
I smiled and told you tales of the changing seasons. I showed you pictures of roses and we bought an African Violet for the windowsill. You took charge of the watering. But it was always daffodils you wanted.
‘Look at the daffodils, Mum. Look, one’s come out,’ you said, standing outside Mrs Farmer’s the following February. ‘Can I hold it? Can I?’
‘No, don’t be silly, Jenny. It’s Mrs Farmer’s,’ I said, horrified. ‘We can’t just pick daffodils from anyone’s garden.’
‘I’m sure she wouldn’t mind, Mum,’ you looked up at me with those brown eyes, swirling like melting chocolate.
‘No,’ I said, my final word on the matter.
Why didn’t I let you have the daffodil? Would it have hurt to take just one? I would let you have every single one of them if I could exchange them for all the pain you suffered. It’s so easy to look back and wish things had been different.
Part two next week