Daffodils are coming into season in England and as I stare at the mini bouquets of the trumpet-shaped flower John has created on the coffee table, I'm reminded of the significance this particular flower has to the tiny town I grew up in.
Sumner, Washington doesn't have much to boast of: one main street which consists of a pharmacy (where the pharmacists have known me since I was a newborn), a bar (above where I briefly had ballet lessons), a dry cleaner's (where my dad has his pants tailored and dry cleaned), and stores with names like "A Picket Fence" selling knick knacks and things that appeal to women who like to think they live in a country home somewhere in the middle of Montana rather than Washington. Yee-haw.
Every year, however, a flurry of excitement takes over the town as the residents prepare for The Daffodil Parade. This parade travels not only through Sumner, but also through the three neighboring cities: Orting, Puyallup and Tacoma. High school marching bands, dance teams, cheerleaders and - the main attraction - heavily decorated floats (like the one above) slowly make their way down the main streets to the cheering and applause of crowds lining the sidewalks, like some kind of parasitic ooze slowly taking over the pavement. People even bring their own chairs, you know, the foldable kind with the cup holders. They sit with their visors to block the sun and/or umbrellas (which also somehow plug into the same chair), depending on the weather. For many, this is the highlight of their year.
For me, all I ever wanted was to be a Daffodil Princess (the girls pictured above) - Sumner, Puyallup, Tacoma and Orting's answer to Miss America. Miss Universe, for all that mattered. Daffodil Princesses were carefully selected to represent their high schools in this parade and usually consisted of variations on the same beaming, brunette/blonde who looked wholesome, cute, and smiled winningly into the camera for their newspaper shot. I was never any of those things. But I wanted to wear the damn tiara, the white gloves, the yellow dress. I wanted to be perched on that daffodil laden float and wave reverently to the crowds. One day I expressed my dejection to my mother. "Jaime," my mom frowned. "Who cares about this stupid kind of thing? You could represent your school in many better things ... like, for example, if you were to have the highest SAT score in the district!" she suggested brightly. I gave her a withering look.
But see, when you grow up in a small town, you can't help but have these sorts of aspirations and dreams. You never think that anything bigger or better could be out there for you, shining, smiling and waiting for you to arrive. When I think of my journey from Sumner/Puyallup to London, I think of this parade and how I used to envy those girls perched lovingly atop the coveted float. And I laugh at myself for ever wanting - more than anything in the world - that damn tiara, the white gloves, the yellow dress. I think of how much bigger my world has become and how eager I am to discover it.