The Flower of Memory
by Michael Haynes
My fourteen-year-old daughter Sophia sets the flower, one of the last from our ruined
greenhouse, by the crude headstone I erected several weeks ago. The rose is a bright splash of
red against the stark white of August snow.
A recollection comes to me as I look at that flower, a quotation which seems appropriate now.
"There was a writer named J. M. Barrie," I say by way of introduction.
She looks up at me, pale blue eyes like her mother's. Eyes that will haunt me as long as I live,
though I have good reason to believe that won't be much longer. Good reason as well to believe
that it won't be much longer for any of us.
"He's the man who wrote the original Peter Pan story," I tell her. "Over a hundred years ago
now. And he once wrote - not in Peter Pan, but in something else - 'God gave us memory so
that we might have roses in December.'"
Sophia frowns. "But it isn't December."
"No," I agree. "It's not."
But it might as well be. It's colder now than any December I can remember here in Arkansas.
It's been cold now for long, for far too long. First all of the electronics died. No cell phones, no
internet, no anything. Then the cold and snow and wicked winds came. Some people drove off,
trying to find others, trying to get news. They never returned. No one else arrived.
"Come on," I tap my daughter on her shoulder. It's not wise to be out after nightfall and
somehow it seems like it is getting dark earlier than it should these days. "We need to go."
We follow our tracks back towards home. The drifting snow has obscured them in some places,
but I'm able to keep a fairly straight track by sighting against landmarks on the horizon.
While we're walking, I return to what I was talking about before. "There was a time when people
couldn't have roses all year 'round. So what Barrie was saying was that things that were good
and beautiful didn't have to be gone from our minds just because they couldn't be present at that
Sophia doesn't say anything. I can't tell if she doesn't see where I'm going with this or if she's
being obstinate. I lost the ability to make that discernment several years ago, somewhere
between Barbies and braces. I'm feeling stubborn myself, though. I push my point, make it all
the more explicit.
"Your mother, then. Like the roses J. M. Barrie talked about. You can remember her and her
love for you. Those memories will always be a part of you. Even though she's gone."
We keep walking. A mile or so back to the house from the gravesite. Are we halfway back yet?
Wind kicks up, biting at the bare skin of my face. I think I hear a sound, but I can't tell if it's the
wind or something even more sinister.
Finally, she speaks. "But when he wrote that . . . When people would remember roses in
December, they could also think about new roses the next year, couldn't they?"
I'm about to answer, to say that yes, I suppose they could. And that it may not be a perfect
analogy, but her memories of her mother could still endure . . .
Then Sophia speaks again.
"There isn't going to be a next year this time, is there?"
I hear her words but don't answer. I don't know what I could possibly say. But I have to go on.
I can't stop walking, because if I stop now I'll never want to start again. Memories, for me,
already were a dagger. Hope for my daughter was all that kept me going. And hope was now,
like Barrie's roses in December, only a memory.