MAY DAY

MAY DAY

From Chicken Soup for the Mother's Soul

May Day

Mr. Kobb wrapped the half-dozen carnations in plastic wrap, with some green leafy things and those little teeny weeny white baby’s breath flowers. He was even kind enough to put a bow around this gift I was bringing my mother for May Day.

“How are you getting these home, Ernie?” he asked me.

“I’m carrying them.”

“You’re riding your bike in this?”

We both looked out the flower shop window to observe the trees bending to the sidewalk. That was a nasty wind. I nodded my answer.

“How about I wrap that bouquet in a stronger bag?” He took the flowers and rolled them up in a couple of layers of strong brown paper. Handing the bundle to me, he said, “Good luck, kid.”

“Thanks,” I said. I stuck the bouquet inside the front of my coat and zipped it up as far as it would go. The petals tickled my neck and chin, but I didn’t think they would last too long if I tried to hold them in a hand that needed to be stuck on a handlebar. I didn’t know much about flowers, but I knew my mother deserved more than a ripped-up bundle of stems.

Now, there’s wind, and then there’s pick-you-up-and–blow-you-two-blocks-away wind. The wind that day was the second kind. Riding against it was not easy. I felt my feet pedaling, my hands gripping, my lungs gasping, and wind against my face, but every time I looked up, I was still in front of the same store on the same block. At least it seemed that way.

My nose ran. I had no tissues to wipe it. It didn’t take too long for my lips to chap. My ears hurt way deep inside, like someone was poking my eardrums with toothpicks. My eyes were so dry I couldn’t blink. Every muscle in my body hurt.

The highway got more and more crowded with cars as the sun started setting. The wind knocked me out of the bike lane and into the street enough for me to worry about getting hit. One truck driver swerved and honked his horn to avoid me. A man in a Cadillac yelled out his window for me to get my you-know-what home.

It was after dark when I finally neared my block. My parents should have been worried sick by that point. I kept looking for Dad’s mini-van or Mom’s station wagon. They must have been out looking for me, I figured. At any moment they would drive past, stop, and load me, the bike and my flowers inside for a nice warm drive the rest of the way home. The longer I went without seeing their familiar headlights, the angrier I got.

I was only doing this stupid bike ride for Mom. The least she could do was save my life.

Four blocks from home, worn out, I stopped and took the flowers out of my jacket. I was going to throw them into the wind. Mom didn’t deserve them anymore.

What stopped me was the sight of the white carnations. They weren’t quite as perky as they had been, and the baby’s breath was all munched, but as a whole, the bouquet still looked nice. It had been so much work getting them this far, it would be stupid to waste it all now.

I stuck the paper-wrapped stems of the bouquet into my mouth and rode super slowly so the wind wouldn’t hurt them. Soon enough I came to the hill leading down to my house. I kept my feet still on the pedals, and my hands gripped the brakes on the handlebars. It didn’t matter. With the wind at my back, my neighbors’ houses became a blur as I whizzed by. I tried to stop and swerve into my driveway.

The bike skidded and went down. I landed at least three feet away after sliding across the driveway, stopping only when my head hit the soft grass of the front lawn. The flowers scattered across the yard, petals ripping off and flying about like confetti.

Ignoring my scratches, I ran around my front yard to gather up what I could of Mom’s bouquet. By the time I had clumped together the six stems again, little was left of the pretty parts. Sloppily, I re-tied the bow around them.

Mom rushed out the front door, frantic to know what the crash had been. I hid the flowers behind my back.

“Are you okay?” Mom asked, looking my face over for serious wounds.

“I’m fine,” I said, through the knot forming in my throat.

“Are you sure?” she double-checked. “Why are you hiding your hands?”

“My hands are fine. See?” I revealed the mess that used to be a bouquet of flowers. “I’ll get you something else,” I muttered as I started to cry.

Mom grasped the flowers, with my hands still holding them, and sniffed them so long I thought they might go up her nose. At last she lowered them, and I saw that she was crying, too.

“I love them. Thank you.”

Right then I remembered why I had bought them for her. It was more than a day on a calendar; it was because she was always so good at showing me how much she loved me, no matter what. The flowers were dead, but in Mom’s hands they looked alive and beautiful.

Ernie Gilbert
As told to Donna Getzinger

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