Family Parenting

Lessons From Annual Daffodil Day

Me, in the Daffodil Meadow

For the last ten years, my friend and I have taken our sons to the local Daffodil Park on May 1st. The park is a gorgeous, secret jewel hidden right on the edge of our town. And each time we go, there is something that helps us to mark the passing of time.

One year, we saw a partially decayed deer carcass, and the kids poked the flesh and bones and fur with long sticks and made up stories about what must have happened to the deer. There was the time when Monkey, while walking too closely to the water’s edge, accidentally slipped in and ended up with a wet pant leg and shoe. There was the year where it was unbelievably muddy and we mommies, unprepared for such conditions, walked out of the park looking like two muddy swamp creatures along with our equally brackish boys.

Then one year was different, calmer. The boys were older. They came and went from our picnic blanket as they pleased. That year our children could reach the sign that reads: “Daffodil Park: Beginning May 1.” For years, they had jumped, trying to touch that sign with their fingertips – and then, one year, they could stand, feet planted firmly on the ground, and just push up the sign and release it with a bang. How did that happen? my friend and I wondered as we watched our sons frolic like young foals.

Daffodil Day has always been a lovely way to kick-off spring: a lovely way to pass time, a lovely way to mark our friendship. Each year, it is renewed. It is greener. Each year, a new adventure.

Monkey beside the old trees.

I don’t know how it happened, but I missed it this year.

Daffodil Day?

Not. Even. On. The. Radar.

How did that happen?

Part of me thinks that it is because the weather has just been miserable in Western, New York this spring. My husband has certainly grumbled enough about the lost rounds of golf. Even today, on May 19th, it is still overcast and cool enough for a light jacket.

But another part of me knows that Monkey and his old friend aren’t quite the friends they used to be. They have gravitated toward other people. Which is fine. It’s natural for friendships to change. But it is kind of sad, too, so I can mourn that a little.

Looking out the window yesterday – beyond the raindrops that drizzled down the glass – I decided missing Daffodil Day is wrong. Even if my friend and her son didn’t join us, I decided to take Monkey on a muddy field trip. (This time, at least I’d be prepared.) I planned to take pictures of him in the usual spots. The yellow flowers would be gone. The yellow heads would be brown and shriveled. (I was mentally prepared for that.) But Monkey and I have always liked to get dirty, liked to get caught in rain-showers, and there is a bench in the park where I figured we could just sit and chat. Without phones or any electronic devices that ping or beep. Except maybe my camera.

Because I decided I am not ready to give up that ritual. Not yet.

When Monkey came home from school and announced he had completed all of his homework, I was elated. The sun had poked out just enough for me to feel hopeful. I told him to put on his worst shoes, that we were going for a ride.

“Where we goin’?” he asked.

“Just get in,” I said, “You’ll see.”

In seven minutes, we arrived and I pulled my car over to the side of the road and intentionally left my phone in the car.

Wordlessly, Monkey and I walked down the rocky slope to the Daffodil Meadow holding hands. We walked .2 miles and quietly noticed everything. Monkey was the first to comment on green everyone was. He noticed that the water in the stream seemed lower, which it did. He noticed that a lot of the old trees had rotted more. Slapping his neck, he noted that the mosquitoes were out.

Where have all the flowers gone?

And as we made the familiar turn to the spot where thousands of daffodils usually stretch their necks upwards with a kind of sunny glow, Monkey and I marveled in unison: “Whoa!”

The whole area was under water.

This was something new.

I pulled out the camera and took pictures of him and then he took some of me. And then, because we were alone, we realized we weren’t going to have any of the two of us.


“It’s okay, Mom,” Monkey said. “We’ll come back next year. We’ll always come back.”

And I hope this is true but it occurs to me that, one day, my soon-to-be-teenaged son might not want to accompany me to the Daffodil Park. Indeed, he might not want to accompany him anywhere. He is becoming someone new, to himself, to me.

Strange as it sounds, I fell into a weird little daydream where I imagined myself a very old woman, being pushed in my wheelchair by my son on Daffodil Day. I dreamed he had made a simple picnic – a basket filled with cheese, crackers and fruit – and together we looked quietly out at the water, the trees, the flowers. I allowed myself to consider for a moment that maybe my son was not wrong, that maybe he would “always come back” so that one day, my grandchildren might bring their own children to the Daffodil Meadow.

It’s a pretty good dream, right?

I think I’ll cling to it for a little while, if you don’t mind.

What are some non-traditional family rituals that bring you joy?

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35 thoughts on “Lessons From Annual Daffodil Day

  1. My family has always counted on our friends to join us for holiday celebrations, birthdays, etc. Every Thanksgiving and/or Christmas, after the food has been eaten, the gifts distributed, etc. we play a game. Usually we play Trivial Pursuit, though we’ve been known to play Monopoly, Risk, and even Bananagrams. It’s that one time of year I really look forward to. When friends and family can get together and try to annihilate one another through non-violent board games.

    1. Bananagrams – I like the sound of that. I’m intrigued. Is that some homemade game involving anagrams of plantain? Or what? Make your body into the shape of a banana? Write messages of banana skins?

      1. Paul:

        I can’t imagine they wouldn’t have that in your neck of the woods. But if not, well… if you are ever the lucky contest winner in one of my contests, well… I know what you are going to win! 😉

  2. On Thanksgiving, my brother and I went to a movie. My husband and I did that a couple times, but my kids are a little too young yet. I look forward to it because then I can leave my house after dinner and not think of the dishes.

  3. I hope and wish that you and monkey will always have time to stroll down to Daffodil Park. It’s such a beautiful thing to do. True friendship.

  4. This is the best and most touching story I have read since I started reading your blogs. We can all relate to family traditions and children growing up. And we can feel your mixed emotions coming through.

  5. I love this too, Renée! I love that Monkey still holds your hand…Hope will be 13 in July, and gets really mad at me if I try to hold her hand crossing the street!

    Every year in September, it’s Open Farm Day in New Brunswick…various farms open their doors to the public. We always take the kids to see the cows, horses, chickens and sheep. Last year, we took our granddaughter for the first time…maybe this year my daughter will let Gramma and Grampy Jim take Elise without her parents (I bought her tiny rubber boots with a cow print on them)! Can’t wait!


    1. How can your daughter say no when you have the boots all ready to go? Do they make boots with a cow print in adult sizes. As I think you can tell, I would be all over those and I think it is fair to say, I could totally rock that look.

      Although, it is always dangerous for grown women to dress in cow prints — I believe the boots would be an acceptable exception. And they would obviously add a bit of whimsey to any outfit.

      If I had a daughter, I would totally let you take her to Open Farm Day! 😉

      ————— cut here ———————————————————-
      Psssst: Wendy, if it helps you may now print out this response and hand it to your daughter when necessary. Perhaps it might help when she sees how sentimental I am.

  6. I once told a friend of mine who hadn’t had kids yet that my feelings about time have drastically changed since becoming a parent. My time alone is so precious now, and yet, my time with my kid is so precious, too. Hmm, that sounds like I live in constant preciousness! I have that sort of double feeling about yearly traditions with my kid, too. I love participating in them, and I love remembering them. Every time we would repeat our tradition, I would feel that something important was happening, that I needed to pay attention to every sight and scent. I was consumed and delighted by the present. When we skip the annual tradition, however, I still can reflect on how full of wonder it was and how wonderful it is to witness my child’s growth and maturity. I am pleased and reassured by the past.

    1. That is such a beautiful way of saying what I (sometimes) feel.

      But sometimes I don’t live in the moment and I miss stuff.

      Yesterday was most excellent.

      Thank you for reminding me of the preciousness of things. 😉

  7. We’ve always had big family dinners for birthdays, but as we grew up and scattered, it was harder to get together. In the past two years or so, my sisters and I have started having Sisters’ Lunch once a month. As a matter fact, tomorrow the three of us are flying from NY to Florida to surprise our 4th sister who never gets to come to Sisters’ Lunch. We can’t wait to see the look on her face 🙂

    And I’ve thought to mention this before, but I love the nickname “Monkey” because that’s what my mother used to call me when I was a little girl.

    1. Omigoodness! I love the Sisters’ Lunch Thang! TAnd the fact that you have a secret trip planned, well… that is the coolest, most fabulous thing ever! Your Florida sister is going to flip out! You have to tell me how that goes!

      You are a little monkey, aren’t you? 😉

      As Noahluv said above, enjoy the preciousness of those moments. And be sure to bring a great camera – not just a phone. Phone photos never turn out very well. Safe travels, limr!

      1. Florida Sisters’ Weekend was an overwhelming success! When we popped out from around the corner of her house, she was so stunned that she just stood there staring between us and her husband for about a minute. Then the tear fest began 🙂

        We made margaritas, had pizza, went for walks, stayed up until the wee hours in our pj’s, and made bead bracelets at Starbucks, where we also invented Bead Curling (used coffee stirrers as the brooms). Many pictures were taken. It was definitely in the top five of Best Weekends 🙂

  8. I love the future vision. A lot of times when people ask me what I’m thinking about I tell them something random or normal. The truth is that I’m most often dreaming of some future scene. Nice post as always.

  9. When Monkey gets older, and you send him off to college, you can always paraphrase Casablanca: We’ll always have Daffodil Day.

  10. Our family has a beach we go to, one that we used to live near. We never had a particular day of the year, though for a while it was Mum’s birthday, but every now and again we all go as a family. Even though all of us ‘kids’ are now adults, though yet to have kids of our own. We still climb up the cliff to the top of the waterfall, go for a swim and walk down the long stretch of black sand. Its a place where we have all brought friends, boyfriends, girlfriends, all the people that are important to us to visit because it is part of who we all are. There are places that become part of us and have special memories that we hold forever.
    I hope you and Monkey have that special bond with daffodil Park, I don’t think he will ever forget, even if you occasionally miss a year.

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