Where the Flowers Is

At this time of year when the first day of spring looms, I hear Daddy’s voice in my head saying, “Spring has sprung. The grass is riz. I wonder where the flowers is?”

As we four girls grew up, Daddy’s love for jingles and poem fragments pervaded our lives. An early riser, he served as our alarm clock. He’d poke his head in the door every morning and say, “Here hath been dawning another new day. Think wilt thou let it slip useless away.” Like yin and yang, his daughters’ irritation matched his cheerfulness.

Another favorite included his dinner table observation, “I eat my peas with honey. I’ve done it all my life. It makes the peas taste funny, but it keeps them on my knife.”

If family conversation deteriorated into too much seriousness, he’d lighten the mood with “I never saw a purple cow. I never hope to see one. But I can tell you anyhow, I’d rather see than be one.”

He sometimes declared a person had to be a poet, but just didn’t know it. “Look at the feet,” he would say, “They’re long fellows.”

Besides the jingles and terrible puns, Daddy had a love for great poetry. At the end of World War II, he based his college senior speech competition on a line from Milton, “War wearied hath performed what war can do,” and won the medal. Frequently, he used quotes in his sermons from Shakespeare, the Brownings, Tennyson, Frost, or other poets.

It’s peculiar which of Daddy’s gems are most likely to come to mind. I love early mornings as he did, but when I get up at five o’clock, I seldom think whether I’m letting the day slip useless away. Only rarely do I think of eating peas with honey or purple cows. From time to time, one of the great quotes comes to mind and serves a purpose as it fits something happening in my life. However, let me see the bluets, redbud, and johnny jump-ups of spring, and I automatically begin to “wonder where the flowers is.”