I didn't have to think long.
"Tulip bulbs," I wrote.
Lori and I come from a city in Iowa that has been voted Most Beautiful Small Town in the Universe by every journalistic genre in the world.
And here's why: Tulips. Hundreds of thousands of them. Every year for three days in May, a million people (no exaggeration!) show up for Tulip Time. It's a glorious celebration of our Dutch heritage. (Once, some visitors from Holland declared that our town was more Dutch than the Netherlands.) We crown a Tulip Queen, guys. And we have SIX parades. But the main draw is the vast stretches of tulip beds.
So I assumed obtaining tulip bulbs would be a cinch for Lori.
There was nary a bulb to be found. Not in our town, nor any other in Iowa. August is not the time to plant bulbs, don'tcha know?
"I have tulip bulbs in my garage. I want Wendy to have them." She--or some family member--had dug them up after Tulip Time. A perk of living in Our Town.
"Oh, no," exclaimed Lori.
"I insist," determined Carol.
And that's how I ended up with Carol Schulte's tulips.
We talked about important things. Children. Husbands. Dying. Jesus. Regrets. Joys.
We cried. We prayed. We reminisced.
It wasn't all upbeat.
But it was all real.
Two weeks later she beheld Jesus himself. In person.
And I went home to Kyrgyzstan.
Spring comes early to Kstan. Little green shoots show up before you're even expecting them. Last month I stepped outside and noticed.
Carol Schulte's tulips were sprouting.
Last week they started blooming. Pink and white and red and yellow surprises.
I can't walk by without a pang and a pleasure.
Even if they're not the vast colorways of our Dutch-American, festival town, they are deeply beautiful. Stately, stunning, friendly and welcoming.
They look exactly like her.