My fifth grade teacher was a bitter old woman who didn’t like children—especially me. Now why anyone would not like me at that stage is a mystery; I was a very compliant child. Nevertheless Miss Braden ruined my ten-year-old life. However, she introduced me to Forsythia, and for that I owe her. I remember clearly the morning she brought some branches to school and put them in a vase.
Since that day so many springs ago, except for the 19 years that I lived in the tropics, I have noticed and loved the blooming of the Forsythia. Nineteen years, incidentally, is a long time to go without Forsythia.
The first spring after I moved to New York, I was thrilled to discover that the ledges of the 86th Street sunken transverse road through Central Park are lined with Forsythia! As you pass through the Park, for a few lovely days in spring you see burst after burst of glorious gold that tells you the long dark winter is finally over.
For Housman, it was the cherry tree:
Loveliest of trees, the cherry now
Is hung with bloom along the bough,
And stands about the woodland ride
Wearing white for Eastertide.
Now of my threescore years and ten,
Twenty will not come agin,
And take from seventy springs a score,
It only leaves me fifty more.
And since to look at things in bloom
Fifty springs is little room,
About the woodlands I will go
To see the cherry hung with snow.
For Whitman, it was the lilac.
When lilacs last in the dooyard bloom’d,
And the great star early droop’d in the western sky in the night,
I mourn’d—and yet shall mourn with ever-returning spring.
O ever returning spring! trinity sure to me you bring
Lilac blooming perennial, and drooping star in the west,
And thought of him I love.