There's a fairly large farmer's market on the corner near the hospital. I've visited many times, pre- or post-visit. I don't always buy something, but my favorite booth is one occupied by a Korean family selling some of the most beautiful flowers I've ever seen, especially the peonies. You just don't see peonies everday, and since their blooming period is so short I feel obligated to pay homage. Which is to say, I bury my face in them whenever I walk by- - -no one seems to mind. I can't resist. They pull at me with their moth-wing fluffiness, their light, yet heady scent of summer to come.
The other day I was doing my usual sniff and smile routine when the flower lady noticed the big plastic Carolinas Medical Center cup in my hand. "You sick? I hope not, right?" she asked--half sympathetic, half cautionary. "No," I assured her. "Just visiting my dad today." With that, she plucked one of the biggest blooms from her $10 bundles and thrust it at me: "You take! For your mama, OK?"
"No, I couldn't--it's actually my dad. . .you see, my mom is um," (meanwhile the lady looks puzzled and slightly wounded, a look I remember my grandmother giving me if I refused a fourth piece of fried chicken). "OH, THANK YOU!!" I finally blurted, grasping the stem. "Your flowers are so special," I told her.
"Special like mama, right?" she said.
"Yes, exactly." I replied. And this peony sure is.