50. Say It with... a Rhododendron

50. Say It with... a Rhododendron

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Happily Ever After

Say It with... a Rhododendron

Flowers are love’s truest language.

~Park Benjamin

I read somewhere that starting a new job is one of life’s most stressful events. So when my husband began behaving in a less-than-charming manner after he’d moved to a new workplace, I tried to remember that the source of his tension was probably elsewhere. I tried to hunker down and weather the unpleasantness until it ran its course.

I failed.

Eventually, one night at bedtime, he asked me if I was angry. We began to hash it out.

“Tell me, would you behave toward the people at work the way you’ve been acting toward me lately?” I asked.

“It’s funny you say that,” he answered. “Lately I’ve been thinking that they’re a lot easier to deal with than you are.”

“Maybe that’s because your biggest criticism at work is only ‘I think this paragraph needs revision’ instead of ‘I’m completely disappointed in everything about you.’” My voice broke. We continued trading accusations the way tired people at night should never do. Finally we went to bed, saddened and exhausted, with nothing resolved.

The next morning, we both acted carefully cordial. Our argument had succeeded in airing our tensions — only to have them hover oppressively all around us. It was a relief when the afternoon came and I got a chance to be alone; my husband was driving our daughter to a birthday party. It was far enough away that he was planning to wait there until it was over.

I gloomed around by myself for the next few hours. If being angry was bad, this uneasy peace was even worse. I dreaded his return and the resumption of our polite détente. Finally came the sound of the car in the driveway. Then my daughter stuck her head in the door and announced gleefully, “Daddy’s got something for you!”

It is a historical element of our relationship, harking back to our courtship days: My husband will bring me flowers after his most dire offenses, even if he’s not clear just what his offenses were. Yes, maybe it’s a little trite, the typical way a male seeks forgiveness, but there it is. In times of romantic uncertainty, he is a man with a bouquet.

But this time he didn’t bring just flowers. No, he struggled through the doorway with a large, balled-and-burlapped rhododendron, in full bloom. I couldn’t help feeling a growing sense of amusement.

“I went with a shrub,” he said with twinkling eyes. “I thought repeated flowering might be wise in the long run, considering how difficult I can be to live with.” Then he added, “I hope you know I love you.”

The hug that followed was warm and healing. I felt his embrace and, more important, felt the ease between us return.

The next day, we gave the rhododendron a careful planting out in the garden, tucking it into peat moss and compost. It has thrived, and when in bloom inspires many a knowing smile between my husband and myself. It is our special rhododendron, a fitting symbol of the romance between a gardener and her mate. Both the flowers and our love grow more beautiful as each year passes.

Did I say that flowers are trite? Well, maybe it’s my turn to be wrong.


~Martine Caselli
Chicken Soup for the Gardener’s Soul

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