Thinking About Tulips


My grandma died in February 2011. At her funeral I took one single pink tulip from a bunch of decorative flowers outside the crematorium. I decided to keep this fuchsia flower as a reminder of her.

I held it in my pocket for the rest of the day and when everyone else was inside eating buffet food I stood outside alone, looking down at my little tulip and telling myself how shit this all was. I got home and pressed it between two books.

When I returned to work the following week a colleague had left me a huge bunch of pink tulips on my desk along with a sympathy note. What a coincidence, I thought.

A few weeks later, after a thoughtful phone conversation with my other grandma during which we both talked about how much we missed her, she sent me a present in the post to cheer me up. When it arrived, I opened the envelope. Inside was a little notebook and on the front of it, an illustration of a bunch of pink tulips. My jaw dropped.

I obsessed about my dried tulip and its determination to follow me around in the weeks following my grandma’s death. A few months later I got the image of it tattooed on my right arm, along with a line from one of my favourite songs – a line that made me daydream about a place in the sky that she might have gone to: “we’ll burn away from all the other flames that burn tonight” (Foo Fighters, Burn Away).

This week I’ve been thinking about tulips again because after a recent work achievement in Holland I came home to discover that my partner had bought me a huge bunch of The Netherlands’ famous flowers to say well done. There they sat, on my kitchen table, marking my recent endeavour but also seven years since she passed and also – yesterday – her birthday.

As I walked through the supermarket last night and saw a huge variety of tulips on offer, I was saddened by the idea that their ubiquity all those years ago – and today – was merely due to it being the start of Spring, their well-timed arrival in our shops being right on queue with the season. When the world turns in such familiar rituals, is anything ever actually a spooky occurrence?

My grandma loved stories and was my biggest supporter when it came to my creative writing. If she were around today she would have been the first person I’d called to tell her about my Holland award-win.

My dad (her son) visited me last week and spending the weekend with him reminded me that he loves to tell a story, too. He recounts tales of work trips all over the world, a look of passion in his eyes as he declares the imagery, the jokes, the moments, the climaxes. I have a head full of stories bursting to come out and I don’t need to question where I’ve inherited that from.

There are coincidences, yes. But there are also stories, and without stories, I’m not sure the world would turn at all.

“The hardest part is knowing everything must die. The hardest part is waiting here ready to collide.” Burn Away, Foo Fighters