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Tulips

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My husband handed me a large, beautifully wrapped package.  Four pairs of little-boy eyes watched in anticipation.  One boy said excitedly, “You’re gonna cry, Mommy!”  I carefully peeled back the paper and revealed the gift: an oil painting of tulips.  Wow.

No tears came.  But I did smile.  “Thank you, honey!  It’s…it’s beautiful!”

Tulips had been a mainstay in our home for nearly 10 years, ever since my then-fiancé got down on one knee and asked me to marry him, presenting me with a tulip-setting engagement ring.  After my teary “Yes”!”  he pointed out the four petals proudly, saying, “Can you believe I found a ring designed around your favorite flower?”

Once we were married, I was adorned with tulips for Valentines Day, Mother’s Day, my birthday, and every holiday in between.

And then came the fateful day of the oil painting.  I had already seen two vases of flowers downstairs- one a gorgeous bouquet of multi-colored flowers and the other a vase of pink tulips.  I knew which one was his mother’s and which one was mine.

The fact that I didn’t cry upon opening the painting was clearly a concern.  As I put on my mascara in the bathroom mirror, I heard the dreaded question from the shower.

“So…honey.  Your reaction to the painting wasn’t exactly what I expected.  Do you not like the painting, or are you really not into tulips anymore?”

I nearly stabbed myself in the eye.  How could I truthfully answer that question when I had sworn myself to secrecy for the rest of my matrimonial days?

But it was now or never.  I couldn’t lie.  And I really didn’t want to hang up the oil painting.  So, I stumbled out with, “Well…actually…I…they…I was never…I never really was into tulips.”  I breathed out hard.

The water turned off.  Two hands slapped flat against the steamy shower door.  Followed by a scrunched up face.  “What did you say?”

My voice shook as I repeated the terrible truth.  And then I had to know- “Who told you tulips were my favorite flower?”

“I don’t know!   One of your friends, probably.  Or you!”  Then his eyes grew even wider. “But…but…the ring!”

I blurted out, “I know!  Which is why I could never tell you!  Because I knew it would always come back to the ring!”

“Do you even like your ring?”

I tried to reassure him with “Yes!  I love my ring!”  but the reality had started to sink in like a shoe in the mud.

“Wait.  So…if you were to rank your favorite flowers, where do tulips fall?”

I winced.  “Maybe number 7?”

“Number 7?  You mean to tell me, I have been getting you tulips for 10 years thinking I was giving you your favorite flower, and there were actually 6 other flowers you would have rather been given?”

I nodded sheepishly.  “I’m so sorry, honey.”  Somehow, I had thought it was more loving to receive his gifts with gratitude than to complain about wanting something different.

But the real truth?  The real truth is, I didn’t keep the secret out of love; I kept it out of fear.  Fear of disappointing him, hurting him.  Fear that he would be angry.  Fear…of rejection.

And all he wanted was to love me well by giving me my heart’s desire.

I learned that day that I don’t need to be afraid of telling my husband the truth.  The fact is, true intimacy in relationships can only be found when we come out of hiding and show our hearts to each other.

That year, for the first time, his mom got the tulips.

6 thoughts on “Tulips”

  1. Carole Lucy Virden

    Hooooooray, Heidi! Thanks for the encouragement to each of us..to be loved “as we are” and to love REAL-ly well.

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