I felt the same way waking up from an afternoon nap yesterday.
The preoccupations of finals studying had invaded my dreams and what should have been restful slumber ended with thoughts of exam-taking. Both times, I was awakened with the typical and hasty realization that I didn’t study for the right things. Or finish the exam. Or show up to the right room.
Yesterday, though, he was there. He was less than an arm’s reach away in my bed, napping in his soft cotton undershirt and boxers.
When I woke up feeling upset, disoriented, and overwhelmed, I reached for him. I snuggled into his warmth and with my head on his chest, I told him about my dreams. I started talking myself out of my anxiety, while he listened, and eventually, he started telling me about Florida.
I can’t remember the context of why, but he started telling me about the childhood walks with his mother. They would take walks around the same neighborhood I grew up in, collecting wildflowers.
I remembered those wildflowers well.
They were delightful bursts of yellow-orange and frosty white flowers that lined the streets and our yards. All the kids probably did what the two of us did, picking the best and most unique of them, and presenting our mothers with our raggedy weed bouquets that they’d accept with exaggerated enthusiasm.
I added my commentary about the wildflowers to his, as we lay in bed. He stroked my back, while I relaxed into such a comforting memory about the place that formed our collective memory of childhood.
I could remember the grasshoppers that couldn’t help but leap into the air after my father cut the grass on Sunday afternoons. Their fate was usually sealed by my sister and I in empty jars that were stored on the low shelf in the kitchen. Similarly, he used to make “potions,” in jars, with his sister. He described the immature pollen-laden pine cones, which I remembered immediately, that they’d strip and mix with sunscreen. There were the mosquito trucks that always sprayed at dusk, sometimes before I had been called inside for the night. And, lightning bugs that he swore that he saw at home, but for which, I playfully disagreed.
As we lost ourselves in that special childhood place, I forgot what I woke up so worried about. And, this morning, when I felt that same creeping anxiety, I reached out for that same memory—of Florida, of muggy sunsets outside, and of wildflowers.
As he talked yesterday, he told me that when picking the wildflowers, he’d search long and hard for the single purple or pink bud that was the coveted rare find in a sea of others. Then, he’d pester his mother about whether or not he’d found something that she’d never seen before. Obviously, she had seen all of the species of wildflowers already, but as all good mothers of inquisitive little boys do, she’d indulge him every now and then with a,
“You know, son, I don’t think I have ever seen that one before.”
He’d delight in the knowledge of his rare find, realizing that he’d found something special.
Twenty-eight years later, that little boy would be a DC lawyer. We'd have reconnected after many travels, educational experiences, and failed romantic attempts. Our paths would have taken us everywhere except back to each other. But, when I would be a stressed and tired medical student, hyperventilating about my exams, it would be his arms that held me and his words that took me back to that special, magical place.
This time, he would also be right about the wildflowers. Except, I'd be the one who'd feel like I'd made the rare and special find.