about bliss

Sunday, May 03, 2009

daily bliss: tulip time

me and my brother L, circa 1990

On Friday I was at a meeting in Menasha, and one of my friends walked into the room wearing a tissue paper flower on his denim jacket...

The simple beauty took me back to elementary school days, when we'd spend hours making heaping bags full of tissue paper flowers to hand out to tourists watching the Children's parade in Tulip Time, the annual festival in my hometown.

Our music teacher taught us to sing a fun song: "Tulips are blooming in Holland, Michigan/Tulips bright colored and gay/Dance on the scrubbed streets of Holland, Michigan/When tulips bloom in May." And, on parade day, we'd don our costumes and ride the buses (a real treat for me, since I lived kitty-corner from the school) into town for the parade (I lived out in the country, a good 8 miles from downtown).

In middle school, I volunteered to carry the banner for the marching band (I was an orchestra girl, and we don't march) just to be part of the parade.

And, in high school, I became one of the legion of dancers who lined Centennial Park every night during the festival, who danced before, during, and after the three parades. During my senior year, my group was chosen as the Exhibition group, which meant that we showcased the dances around the region, and even in the seemingly exotic city of Atlanta, Georgia.

This time of year, I gaze at my wooden shoes, long retired. The names of the eleven other girls in my group are written in ink on one shoe. My costume is somewhere in Michigan. The girls I danced with are mostly living in Michigan, and are now my friends on facebook.

I look outside and see tulips scattered here and there, but never in huge fields or lining boulevards like they do back home.

I hear the strains of the dutch dance music in my head, and I begin to step-brush-hop and sway.

Part of me longs to be 17 again, a senior in high school, only worried about going away to college and leaving my family and friends behind. I long to slip into that costume, those eight pairs of socks, and those soft wooden shoes, and head downtown to hang out by the marching band and watch the cute boys, to giggle with my friends as we compare our high kicks to the girls from rival high schools (ours were always higher). Mostly, I miss that sheer exuberance of being outside and dancing in the early Spring, when sunshine streamed down and the Lake slowly warmed up, when ice cream shops opened up again after a long winter, when life was deliriously busy yet moving in slow motion.

And yet, I'm happy to be 35 and giddy with the energy of Spring--the flowers pushing through last fall's dried leaves, the rabbits threatening to eat said flowers, the fat robins perching on lawns. The friskiness of my students, no longer able to concentrate on anything as serious as writing a paper or reading a novel. The dance in my step as I slide my feet into sandals, and shimmy into the lightweight clothes that best suit me--airy skirts and dresses, thin cardigans, and denim jackets. The sound of an old spring time song, "I'll stop the world and melt with you" or "Here we are tonight, you and me together, the storm outside, the fire is bright," ringing in my head. The countdown until another semester, another school year ends, and the summertime begins, with writing projects and course revisions paired with drives up and down the lakeshore, and long, languid days.

At the end of the meeting, my friend returned with a basket full of tissue paper flowers for all of us, and I threaded mine onto my pink scarf and wrapped it around myself, happy.


  1. OK, this wins cutest post I've seen today! You rock that little Dutch girl look. Love the wooden shoes, but really, eight pairs of socks? And yes, Atlanta still strikes me as exotic sometimes, and it's been my hometown for 28 years!

  2. aww, thanks, nancy!

    yes, the eight pairs of socks help cushion the feet and fill the shoes, which are oversized.

    i remember that we dined in a revolving rooftop restaurant somewhere downtown--a westin? and we stayed with families in a suburb filled with big brick houses. we went to a mall--not lenox, phipps, or perimeter. perhaps cumberland?

    ahh,now i'm missing atlanta.

  3. Anonymous11:38 PM

    I remember learning the tulip song in grade school back in the late '70s.

  4. Anonymous8:56 PM

    thank you I thought I was going crazy, no one has heard of the song but I know my music teacher taught it to me.