I went for a walk in the flower garden in the park this evening, little stars-in-my-sky, and I wished on the evening star that you could be with me, while the moon made a sideways smile high above. The sun was sinking down behind the trees that rustled in the wind off the water, whispering secrets to the sky. Perhaps they were asking the sun what wonders it could see just over the horizon, and whether there were whales playing in the straits. I can almost see them, black and white with their tall fins, surging in the syrupy golden light and blue shadows, disappearing into the edge of night in search of salmon.
The garden was getting ready for bed as well, my littles. I was astonished at how tall the scarlet runner beans had grown, with their blossoms like bits of fire waving high against the blue sky, and beans as long as Sabrina’s arm. There were purple beans and beet greens with their deep red stems. I stroked the plush, bendy plumes of wine-red amaranth flowers with their green-red leaves, and thought of how I would tell you about the tiny grain that comes from the plant, and how far away in Africa it’s a common food for children like yourself. I saw the toad lilies, their newly opened colors so bright and their shapes so very strange and alien. And everywhere, the subtle, elusive scent of phlox rising into the cooling air.
There were sweet peas, sharp and intense, with their old-fashioned manners hiding a hint of wildness. Pink and white, lavender, red, masses of complicated ruffles nodding and making the air thick with their perfume that smells like nothing else. I love sweet peas. Did you know my grandmother used to grow them, a riot of blossoms next to the tall tents of beans where I would sometimes hide? I would pick beans still warm from the sun while the air smelled of sweet pea, my toes sinking into the cool earth, and butterflies flitting distractedly all around. I would have told you how sweet and crunchy beans taste with the sunlight still warm on them, while we smelled the sweet peas together, and I could tell you my memories of beans and peas and rhubarb with sugar. Max could tell us that the Wild Things thought flowers weren’t wild enough, so I would tell him how wild sweet peas grow on the rockiest hillsides and hold the soil in place, as tough as any monster, as wild as any rumpus could be. Even Wild Things respect sweet peas.
But it was the phlox that were everywhere, great pure blue ones, and nodding heads of soft lavender. Their scent is faint, unlike the sweet peas, but there were virtual seas of blooms, so tall we could have played hide and seek among them, and the scent floats everywhere like the air itself. It’s like your mother’s love, or your grandmother’s, always there, part of the background of your life, only half noticed most of the time, sometimes buried under other things. Then, a breeze of life brings it to your heart again, and you’re folded in that love, timeless. That’s what phlox is like for me, a quiet intoxication just beyond thought, part of the fabric of summer, always waiting for a warm golden day or a misty rainy one, binding my heart to my mother’s and my grandmother’s and her mother’s before. And binding my heart to you, and to your someday children, on and on, a shining ribbon in the fabric of the world.
And I’d tuck you to sleep with a handful of phlox, so you could dream of wild whales and love that never ends.