I love tulips this time of year. We’re still ranging between below-freezing temperatures and more moderate days, but I have the most beautiful bouquet of orange and yellow tulips on my table. On Queen West near where I live, there are several little markets that all carry tulips beginning in February and lasting until May or June. The going price seems to be $4 for a bunch of 5 blooms, and if you buy them tightly closed and keep them in a fairly cool room, then they’ll last for days.
I always buy tulips for myself, and I can’t recall anyone ever buying them for me, although I’m sure that that has happened. Men, if they deign to buy flowers, seem to want to make a grander gesture than a $4 clutch of tulips; I suppose that they want it to be remembered. So once a year, on Valentine’s Day, Damir gives me a dozen red roses. Don’t get me wrong, they’re gorgeous, and I love them. But if he took the $100 that he probably spent on the roses, he could buy me $4 tulips every week for half the year, or two bunches per week for the 13 weeks that I most need a taste of spring, from February to April.
There is, however, a satisfaction in buying flowers for myself. I might stroll out to the market, window-shopping along the way; or stop when I am rushing home from a meeting. I let my eyes drift across the array of colours (I only have eyes for tulips), then pluck one or two pleasing bunches from the pack. If the weather is bad, I inevitably remark to the shopkeeper that the flowers make it feel like spring (like they’ve never heard that before). At home, I carefully cut the stems and strip the lower leaves, then place them in a round glass vase (for one bunch) or a pottery water pitcher that I bought in Barbados (for two or more bunches).
As long as I look at the tulips, and not outside at the snow still on the ground, I can pretend that it’s spring.