Missing a lone pink tulip

Sherri Gardner HowellFarragut, Kitchen Table Talk

The lone pink tulip is gone.

In April of 2016, I saw one pink tulip in a field of daffodils along Pellissippi Parkway. I came back the next day to investigate, just to make sure it wasn’t a piece of trash that I couldn’t see well at 65 miles per hour.

It wasn’t. It was one pink tulip, and I was immediately in love with the little oddity.

I wrote a column about it for another newspaper that year. The tulip was there the following year and again last year.

It’s gone now, perhaps eaten by deer or groundhogs. Perhaps it just didn’t bloom this year.

I miss it and the feelings it stirred in me. I want to share the story with KnoxTnToday readers, so here it is, edited a little, from April 2016:

I seem to spend a lot of time on Pellissippi Parkway (I-140), as it is a direct route to most places I’m going, so I especially enjoy the seas of buttercup yellow and creamy white waving at me from the sidelines this time of the year.

And then there is that occasional misfit – that one spot of a different color in the sea of yellow that draws your eye for a double-take. There is one this year – a lone pink tulip standing proudly amongst its cousins, who are all dressed in yellow and white.

I think we all have times when we feel like that tulip. Growing where it was planted – however inadvertently – the little tulip is a misfit in its aloneness. If it were in a grouping, a cluster, it might look different. But just one stalk, one bit of “other” color in a planned landscape, it just doesn’t fit. It may be beautiful in its own right, but because of where it is, it stands out not for its beauty, but for its oddity.

From 2016: One pink tulip in a sea of daffodils along Pellissippi Parkway

In today’s climate of polarizing beliefs and high tensions, it doesn’t take much to foster that feeling of aloneness. Whether we are expounding a political or moral belief that goes against the current grain of conversation, whether we feel we are too tall or short or skinny or fat or “too” of anything, there are times when it seems everyone around us is dressed in the uniform of the day, and we are off-kilter.

I think about my mother when I wax philosophical about the pink tulip. More correctly, I think about the woman who was my mother, about Mary Frances Ward Pruitt Gardner, a young woman in her mid-30s, twice widowed, moving back to her small, Southern hometown to raise her two baby children.

I know my mother often felt like a pink tulip in a world of yellow daffodils, a single in a world where everything was done in twos. I know she was often lonely for my father and for the life that died when he did – the world of an Air Force captain and his beautiful wife, transient yet rooted with other young couples who were moving and raising families in the same world.

It was the late 1950s, and the U.S. was at peace. She had coffee with the officers’ wives, planned parties at the club, sat on the porch in a neighborhood that catered to “the military,” comparing notes and news with other daffodils, all tranquil and uniform in a comfortable time.

My mother wasn’t a trendsetter or a rebel. She would not have chosen to be the pink tulip. She was a traditionalist, seeing her main duty and role as that of a mother raising two children, keeping the house in order, cooking the meals, taking care of her parents and brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews.

But she also had to make sure the mortgage was paid, the faucet didn’t drip, and that the children, especially her headstrong daughter, were prepared for life’s surprises.

I know there are many pink tulips out there who embrace their unique standing among the sameness around them. Blessings and power to them. But for those of us who just sometimes feel a little pink in a world of yellow, it’s OK. You are adding to the scene around you in your own way, and all the yellow daffodils are made more noticeable because you are here.


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