“Okay,” my Aunt Cecelia says, hobbling over to me. Her heels clap against the stone floor. Click, click, clickity-click. Her skin is tan, her brown hair in an updo that’s messy yet clean. A string of pearls rests around her neck, each one glinting in the moonlight. A large shoebox rests in her hands. “So… a riddle, hmm… I haven’t given one of those in a while. Ooh, I have one you’d love. There are two doors, Door A and Door B- and one leads to a safe place, while the other points you to certain death. There are two guards- let’s call them guard A and guard B, so there’s no confusion. You can ask a guard one question on which door to choose. But here’s the catch- one guard always tells the truth, while the other always lies. You can choose the guard and the question, and after I give you your answer, the door.”
“Hmmm,” I murmur. I think about it. If I just ask which door is the good one, then there’ll be a 50% chance. But there should be a way to validate it…
I toss and turn this for about five minutes, then come to a conclusion.
“I’m going to ask Guard B,” I decide.
“Okay, and what question?” Aunt Cecelia asks.
“If I asked Guard A, the other guard, which door is safe, then what would they say?”
I will have put lots of thought into this. Whatever the answer is, and whatever guard is the liar, the door opposite the one they tell me will be the right one.
“They’d say it’s door A. What door will you choose?”
“Yes, and Guard B was the liar.” she tilts her head. “You got that one pretty fast, my mayflower. No wonder you’re so smart.” she tossles my white hair. She seems so happy. But is she, really? Underneath that beautiful skin, is there more to her? Because of the person who lies in this very field?
And is this riddle like my future? Will I choose the door of grief, or the door of moving on? Is one safe, and one not? And how will I know which one to choose?
I examine my surroundings. There are at least twelve graves, scattered across the grassy field. And there are flowers in the center of it all. So many flowers. Roses, bluebells, geraniums, orchids, tulips, sunflowers, daisies.
I see Mother’s grave- Sugar Noveda, 1973-2009. The t shape is rising out of a grassy hill. Not far from it is Grandfather’s tombstone, Rodrick Noveda, 1942-2018. All of the others I don’t know.
This is the day Mother died, the day I was born. It makes my birthday not a time of joy, but one of melancholy for the mother I never knew.
When I was eight years old, I asked Aunt Cecelia what happened to Mother when she died. Is she happy? Sad? Can she feel emotion at all, or is she drifting through nothingness? Does she approve of me, or is she frustrated that she gave her life for some little disgrace?
Aunt Cecelia told me that Mother was a mayflower. She blossomed up, and did all she could. She bloomed, and caught as much sun and soil as possible before wilting eventually. She did all she could possibly do in her time here, even though it wasn’t long.
Our family estate is big, the mansion to the east, the forest and the fields taking up the rest of the space. We have our very own graveyard, where we’ve buried our dead for 300 years. And on every twelth anniversary of someone’s death, we plant a flower. We don’t just do it next to their grave. We plant it in the center of the cemetery, so that all of the dead can admire the flower, smell the aroma and admire the gorgeousness of it. These flowers don’t last forever, and those who passed in the winter or fall don’t often have long-lasting ones. Mother is lucky, though.
But the important part is choosing a flower. You want to plant something that shows how you want to remember the person you’re planting for. We have a code, a meaning to each flower.
The flower garden is vibrant this spring. Five people died twelve, twenty-four, thirty-six, and so-on years ago.
Usually picking a flower is easy, since I’ve never planted a flower for someone who should be so close to me. Usually I choose a daisy, meaning I want to remember someone. I did that for grandfather, too, because I didn’t really understand what remembering truly meant back then.
My first thought was to plant a red rose, inferring that I want to love my mother. But of course I love her. Is there something that I could teach her, and make her think I’m not just making the easiest choice?
When we reach the flower garden, Aunt Cecelia kneels down on the grass. She opens her shoebox to reveal flowers of all kinds, layered on top of each other. They’ve already grown a bit, and we just need to stick them in the dirt.
Aunt Cecelia grabs a flower that’s resting near the bottom of the pile. I’ve never seen it before. It’s big, and it looks like a cross between a rose and a poppy. It’s tinted an orangish-pinkish color, like the sun setting over the horizon. I squint at the garden, but I can’t find this flower anywhere.
“A camellia,” Aunt Cecelia explains. “For admiration.”
Aunt Cecelia digs a hole in the dirt of the garden in one of the few spaces still bare. She plants the camellia, and I’d like to say it stands out. But that would be a lie. There are too many other flowers like it- pale pink roses, freesias, amarylises. It just dosen’t seem satisfactory to me.
I see Aunt Cecelia starting to sniff. Has she been holding that in for the entire time we’ve been out here? Or for the entire day? Maybe ever since Mother died?
Does she hate me, for Mother’s death?
Aunt Cecelia wipes away her tears, strides over to a fountain and splashes water over her eyes. Was she trying to put on a brave face? Did she know that I saw her cry?
“It’s your turn, May,” Aunt Cecelia says. She dosen’t often call me by my real name. She hands me the box. “What’ll you plant?”
I look over the shoebox. I need to make this decision now. No more putting it off.
I could choose a peach rose for gratitude, or a sunflower for joy. A white tulip for remembrance, or a freesia for remembrance. I could just go with a red rose for love, everyone’s first idea. But would Mother disapprove of that choice? There are at least ten red roses, blooming up, up, up together. While I love my mother, is that the best way she wants me to remember her through? Or is there a better thing to do? To assure her something? Maybe what she’s always wanted to hear, wherever she is?
There’s only one option left, then. I realize now that this is the best one.
I dig through the box, trying to find the flower I want. But it’s not there. People don’t think it’s special enough.
I race out of the graveyard and into the forest. Aunt Cecelia calls after me, runs after me, possibly trying to stop me. But she can only get so far in those heels.
I scour the forest floor, but it takes me a while to finally find what I need.
I march back to the flower garden in the graveyard, and then I plant it. It’s small, meaning it’s fragile, but I’m careful with it. I plant it in the soil. It’s smaller than the other flowers. When I lean back and stand up I can hardly see it. Maybe it’ll get stepped on. But it’s meaning is much, much bigger.
I will be a mayflower, I think. I will be who you want me to be, and then even more. You will be proud of me, I promise.
I will be a mayflower. I will blossom up, catching as much soil, water and sun as possible in the time I’m here. Maybe it will be long, maybe it will be short. But I will blossom. And Mother will be with me. I can go through both doors at once.
I will be a mayflower to Mother, and Mother will be a mayflower to me.