Every Christmas there’s a carefully wrapped box under the tree. At first glance, it’s contents seem only to be crumpled newspaper with odd bits of dirt resting within the folds. Not a very impressive gift to receive, that is, until you dig a little deeper. Nestled throughout are paperwhite bulbs, dormant orbs wrapped in papery skin with the tiniest green shoots emerging from their tops.
I’ll admit, when I received my very first box I was secretly puzzled but my father-in-law, the giver of the gift, explained that it’s a long-held tradition in his family, to give these bulbs so that loved ones will have beautiful flowers-a little springtime during the dead of winter. His father had given them every year to his mother and a generation before that, his grandfather to his grandmother.
The summer before I received my very first package, my father-in-law climbed down the rocky water’s edge near West Chop lighthouse, collected up a bucket full of stones, rough edges smoothed by the weather and the constant lapping of the sound. He cleaned each stone and set them aside until he could search out the perfect hand-crafted bowl from our hometown pottery shop.
So each winter now, I pull out my pottery bowl and those stones, set the bulbs in place and watch their progress.
The flowers are indeed beautiful, but what I value most is the time and care he took my first year as a part of his family and that, even though it’s difficult for him now to do even the simplest of daily routines, I still receive a box of bulbs in crumpled newspaper each Christmas.
Time moves on and generations pass, but this family tradition will continue on. Soon I’ll be searching the edge of some river or lake looking for perfectly smoothed stones, selecting a beautiful piece of pottery for each of my now-grown kids, and when the time is right, I’ll present them with a box of their very own so they’ll have a little springtime in the dead of winter.