“I brought you a prize!”
As a kid, this was one of my Dad’s favorite exclamations. He delighted in making people smile, in finding random treasures to share. Those beautiful words could be followed by a joyful surprise or an awkward moment when he’d present me with something he viewed as “special.” Once I received a wall mirror with a graphic design hot pink mouse – holding out a bright red heart. The perfect gift for 10 year old me, but as a 25 year old career woman – it was a random addition to my decor. A sweet gesture filled with love and tenderness, even when he missed the mark.
His trips to the grocery store often resulted in a “prize” African violet. Our kitchen windowsills were filled with these delicate blooms in every conceivable color. He had a natural talent with these beauties. When I got a place of my own, it was one of the first prizes he shared with a smile. But it was his personality that made them thrive, and I never had luck with them in my own home.
My dad’s been gone for nearly 20 years, and time has a way of pushing back those sweet memories that once were too painful. I rarely stop by the floral area of the grocery store – in the early days after his death I found myself reduced to tears as my eyes were drawn to a deep purple violet.
Today, I was sitting at a kitchen table, signing a real estate agreement with a beautiful couple. We have known one another over the years as he was an art teacher, their daughter and I were in a Bible study together nearly a lifetime ago, and Mike does their plumbing. As I was leaving, Mary held out a beautiful African violet for me. In her eyes, I could feel my father’s presence. But this time instead of tears, I felt such joy.
Joy not only in the sense of his presence, but joy that the tenderness of a random “prize” still exists. The lost art of hospitality, the sweetness in sharing a little piece of yourself, the idea of really seeing a person you’ve spent even a short amount of time with. Mary knew we were kindred gardening spirits, and in sharing a piece of herself – I found a lost piece of myself in the process.
My kitchen windowsill now boasts a beautiful prize violet. And I discovered my heart no longer has an empty spot where my father’s prizes belong. Time has allowed soft memories to flourish and take root. All it took was a gift in the form of a sweet violet to see it.