I touch the slick paper seed packets as I lay them out on the counter. Purple coneflower, bee balm, Black-Eyed Susan. I note the instructions printed on the back. Some will require stratification, or a period of cold storage, in order to break dormancy so that they can germinate. Others can be planted directly in the warm soil in the spring. Outside my window, snow blankets the lawn and drapes the branches of the trees. Below freezing temperatures again tonight.
I moisten paper towels and scatter some of the seeds into the white softness, because in addition to cold, they also require water, I roll up the towels, insert them in plastic bags, label the contents. I pause in front of the refrigerator with my hand remaining on the handle. I hope this will work. It should work. After all, the seeds are supposed to germinate.
He was supposed to marry me, because at seventeen when you are a cheerleader and your first love is the football team quarterback, he carves out a space in your heart that no one else will ever be able to fill. Yet the following fall after that first year of whirlwind romance, I sat alone in my dormitory room on a Saturday night as the rain pelted the windows. Across campus, under the same dark clouds, he confessed to his roommate, “I don’t love her.”
We were supposed to be best friends and stay in touch forever, because she was a bridesmaid when I married and we shored each other up through all the intrigues of office politics. I leaned on her as a wise older sister, but when she moved to Washington, she could not persuade me to sympathize with her decision. Now I send her Christmas cards with messages she does not answer. I do not ever hear from her.
He was supposed to outlive me, because parents should never have to bury their children. He smiles at me from the gallery of pictures hanging on the wall. The baby, the toddler, the pre-schooler, the Cub Scout, the third grader. There is no picture of him in the fourth grade, because he died.
A few weeks later, I take the seeds from the refrigerator. I pry open the tops of the Ziplock bags, and slowly unroll the paper towels. Some seeds have swollen, and others have even sprouted filigree roots. But some of the seeds show no growth, lost to betrayal, estrangement, separation and distances that no satellite can reach.
I finger the delicate seeds and bury them just underneath the potting soil, the next step of their development. Whether or not they are supposed to, most.will grow, and display their brightly-colored faces to pollinators such as bees and butterflies as they wave in the wind. They will flourish in the sunlight throughout the spring, summer, and fall, and after a temporary absence, will emerge again the following spring.
Margaret Kramar is an educator and taught English at the University of Kansas where she completed her PhD in the areas of modernism, autobiography and disability studies. Kramar’s creative nonfiction has most recently appeared in Joy Interrupted: An Anthology on Motherhood and Loss and Echoes from the Prairie. She and her family live on a farm in northeast Kansas where they produce organically grown fruits, vegetables, and free-range eggs.
Interview with author Margaret Kramar
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