Monday, 11 May 2020

View from the Crow's Nest: I See Tulips

I realize that I may have to post a little more frequently than once a week to keep you up to speed with my daily notes. This past week I was fixated on tulips.

May 7: Yesterday’s paper featured a photo of tulips, planted in a local park, in the shape of the number 75.  The tulips were especially bred for this year, the 75th anniversary of the end of WW2, and are named Liberation tulips. May 5 was the day when the Nazis surrendered Holland.

Now it just so happens that I am in the process of writing a family history, and as part of that, consulting with my dad’s written family history. So I am up to my elbows in Dutch stories, many of them stories about the war.

I think about the five years of hardship that my parents and their families endured during that war. Dad tells about narrow escapes from Nazi raiders who were looking for strong young men to work in their munitions factories. He talks about shortages of everything, especially in that last horrible cold winter. He tells that it was forbidden to cut down trees for firewood, so my mom and her brothers snuck into the forest at night to bring home deadfall to heat the home where she, her parents, her 8 siblings, plus a Jewish child, plus a man in hiding, were living. He writes about senseless destruction of dykes and farmland, of farm-wagon loads of refugees passing down the road, old women and children shivering under ragged blankets. He writes about being part of the secret force that supported the liberation of Leeuwarden at the end of the war, of a family member who was betrayed and shot without trial.

Many died, but many also survived. The stories of their survival give us hope and courage as we sojourn in the land of Covid.

May 8: There is just something about tulips – in the language of flowers, they symbolize perfect love. There is no greater love than laying down your life for someone else, so using them in memorials to the war speaks a message all its own.

I remember when Dad first planted tulips at our house in the late 50s. He guarded and watched over those few dozen tulips, and eventually they multiplied so that there were beds of tulips all around the house in the springtime. I can’t think of the home where I grew up without thinking of tulips.

At the beginning of this pandemic, while we were dealing with the shock of social isolation and the seriousness of our situation, I turned to tulips and made this art piece.

The yellow jug and the lace curtain background remind me of mom, and the tulips remind me of dad. I find myself reaching back into memories, and wanting to say thank you for the unnoticed and unappreciated gifts of endurance, steadfastness and love we were given as we grew up.

May 9: 46 years ago I carried our 6 week old firstborn in one arm, and prepared to board a plane to Edmonton where Al was. He was starting a new job, and had gone ahead to find us a home. In my other arm, I held a large paper-wrapped bouquet of tulips mom had picked from the flower beds around the house. “Just a little reminder of home,” she said.

Tulips didn’t grow easily in Edmonton, and anyways, I was too busy raising children to do much gardening. But 33 years later, when we moved here, tulips got planted everywhere. They were just a little reminder of home.

After I made the first 2 tulip pieces for my sisters, I decided to make one more, this time including features of the Dutch culture that was part of my life: a Delft Blue vase, a heavy plush tablecloth, lace, and tulips. When mom and dad established their home in Canada, these were the decor items they included, features of the home they left behind. And for me, now, just a little reminder of home.

Dutch tulips, in process. It's a scary thing to start with nothing but an idea. Each piece I add could be the beginning of a disaster which will destroy the picture. So far, so good!


  1. Jessie and here I am sewing a tulip quilt!!claudette

  2. Just sent my Mom tulips for Mothers Day; I was not aware tulips represented perfect love 😀💗
    Thanks Jessie!