When my children were very young, they became unexpectedly fascinated by the big red flowers that bloomed in pots at their grandparents’ Wisconsin home at Christmastime. Grandpa Bob, a crusty farmer and Marine, patiently explained how he forced the amaryllis bulbs to bloom as exquisite holiday decorations.
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 and whisper magic words, wishes, and prayers to urge 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 plants, moved them to the perfect light, turned the pots to encourage the stalk to grow straight, and expertly used the thin stakes to keep them from falling over. Day by day, centimeter by centimeter, they watched their plants grow.
Throughout December, my children regularly called their grandparents from our home in Florida with their amaryllis report. “Grandpa,” my son excitedly said into the telephone, “mine is the tallest!” Holding a ruler, his older sister added, “But only by half an inch!”
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 the most elegant five-inch wide, scarlet blooms.
My kids always felt a little sorry for their grandpa who, for some reason, never won the contest. In fact, whose amaryllis grew the fastest, tallest, or with the most flowers became secondary to the miracle of watching a pot of dirt transform into something so beautiful.
There’s no greater joy than seeing children so excited about something so pure and wonderful. 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, beauty, and simplicity.
The metaphors are too plentiful to do them justice, but aren’t we a little like that amaryllis bulb, so full of amazing potential? We must root ourselves in good soil, provide optimum growing conditions, prop ourselves up when we start to fall, and patiently wait until we fully bloom into the elegant creation we were meant to be.
“Be not afraid of growing slowly, be afraid only of standing still.”