When a special occasion marks the calendar, a colorful gift bag or a box wrapped with a cheery bow often finds its way to a doorstep, an office desk or a mailbox. But once in a while a present arrives at an unexpected moment — no holiday, no birthday — as a reminder someone is thinking about us.
Wanda Anderson of Richland, Wash., remembers just such a gift ... as if it arrived recently.
The daffodils and tulips had disappeared and the buds on the rosebushes were finally in full bloom that spring day. Lavender, pale pink, red with a dash of white filled the garden outside her window with fragrance and a burst of color.
It seemed the renewed earth shouted with joy when her first roses of the season appeared.
The initial sight always brought to mind Wanda's childhood memories of Southern California — a time when her hard-working brothers would delight her with an occasional rose from the commercial nursery, extras donated to their employees. To this young girl — poor by some standards — those earliest flowers were a luxury, special.
"We never had money to buy extra things, so even a tired rose was something to cherish," Wanda said, remembering the thoughtfulness of her siblings.
Nowadays, to have a backyard with her favorites — Peace Rose, Barbara Bush, Love Rose — was sheer enjoyment. Wanda especially loved the very first blooms.
Her husband, Dale, devotedly tended the roses and knew this little fact about his sweet wife. So, on this particular morning, he picked the very first bouquet of spring, still fresh with a breath of dew. But as Dale came back into the house he was met by their church friend, one who had stopped in for a quick visit.
What happened next eclipsed the delight Wanda had felt the moment she spied the cacophony of color in her husband's hand.
As the woman turned to go, Dale graciously handed the first blooms to her. And even though their visitor protested, she was repeatedly assured that the bouquet was hers to keep — given with pleasure.
"I told her I was happy for her to have the roses, but I really wasn't," Wanda said, recalling the emotions she was feeling right then.
Seeing her very precious first blooms go out the door filled her with regret — and a bit of stinginess.
Throughout the rest of the morning, Wanda argued with herself, she said, knowing logically it was "better to give than to receive." Nevertheless, she lamented the spontaneous act.
Heaviness hung in the spring air.
Still, errands beckoned on their day's "to-do" list. So, the couple headed to the post office — the first item on their list — where Wanda waited the few minutes in the car, her mind mulling over the morning's events.
Then without warning, an older woman suddenly appeared at the car's open window, a bouquet of multicolored roses in her arms.
"These are for you," she said, thrusting the bouquet into Wanda's hands. "They're my first blooms this spring."
Totally surprised and overwhelmed with fresh tears — and remorse — Wanda uttered a thank you as she bent for a moment to inhale the blossoms' rich fragrance. When she glanced back up, the mysterious visitor was gone.
To this day, that "special delivery" gift changed Wanda. Now her very first blooms always go to another — a reminder that "someone" is thinking of them.
Lucy Luginbill is a career television producer-host and the Spiritual Life editor for the Tri-City Herald. In her column, she reflects on the meaning of her name, "Light Bringer." If you have a story idea for Light Notes, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency.