Diary of the Plague Year: Day 12 28 March 2020: The scent of narcissus

Narcissi and urn

Over the winter the rain had pounded the earth into a hard crust and I was rooting about to break it up and allow the earth to breathe.

The scent of the narcissus wafted across bringing with it a sudden shock of memory. Foggy at first until I remembered the flower-shop in Hong Kong. I was seven and we were to be flower-girls for my adored Auntie Marie.  She was half French and half Chinese and to me the most wonderful creature in my tiny universe.  Marie was a model and was going to marry my Uncle Joe – the most glamorous couple to ever tread the earth – and being a flower-girl was the most exciting thing that had ever happened to me.

We had walked from home to the flower shop to choose flowers for the wedding. It was hot and stuffy and crowded on the pavement outside. As we stepped out of the heat and dust it felt like plunging with a sharp smack into a cool tank of water, the scent, fresh and green and heady and I drowned happily, my whole body engulfed. We wore pale yellow dresses for the wedding and carried baskets of pale yellow flowers – perhaps they were a type of narcissi. She was the most beautiful bride in her simple pale lace dress.

Marie and Joe went to live in California, divorced and remarried, both happily. She grew rather fat, drank a bit and took to gambling. We lost touch and she died young. I didn’t cry when she died, at the time it had felt almost like the death of a stranger. So why am I crying now as I did not then; driving through the Irish countryside in this cold spring, years and years later, far, far away from that childhood in Hong Kong, with the ghostly scent of narcissus reminding me of the long-lost girl in her pale dress.

Narcissi