The Great Amaryllis Race

One Christmas when my children were quite young, they were unexpectedly fascinated by the big red flowers that bloomed in pots at their grandparents’ home in Wisconsin. Grandpa Bob, a crusty farmer and Marine, patiently explained how he forced amaryllis bulbs to bloom for the holidays.

The next year, and for many years after, my children and their grandfather participated in a holiday tradition known as the great amaryllis race. Shortly after Thanksgiving, they each opened a box containing a pre-planted amaryllis bulb, and the race was on!

I watched my children stare at their pots of dirt whispering magic words, wishes, and prayers urging the bulbs to sprout. Within a week or so, green pointy stems nudged out of the dirt, thrilling them to no end.

They carefully watered their plant, moved it to the perfect light, turned the pot to encourage the stalk to grow straight, and expertly used the thin stake to keep it from falling over. Day by day, centimeter by centimeter, they watched their plants grow.

Throughout December, my children regularly called their grandparents from Florida with the amaryllis report. “Grandpa,” my son would excitedly say into the telephone, “mine is the tallest!” Getting out a ruler, his older sister would object, “No, they are both exactly four inches tall.”

Eventually the slender green stems reached more than a foot. By Christmas day, the buds at the top magically unfurled revealing two, three, or even more separate flowers that burst opened into five-inch wide, scarlet blooms.

Whose amaryllis grew the fastest, biggest, or with the most flowers became secondary to the miracle of watching a pot of dirt transform into something so beautiful. Though they did feel sorry for Grandpa Bob whose amaryllis, year after year, never seemed to do as well as theirs.

There’s no greater joy than seeing your children excited about something so pure and wonderful. I don’t know if I ever thanked their grandparents for starting that special holiday tradition, but I am forever grateful. At a time of year when kids can become materialistic and self-centered, the great amaryllis race taught my children important values including patience, care, faith and hope.

The metaphors are too plentiful to do them justice, but aren’t we all a little like that amaryllis bulb, so full of amazing potential? We must root ourselves in good soil, provide optimum conditions to grow, and patiently wait until we fully bloom into all we were meant to be.



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