Addiction Recovery Story #26, Tête-à-Tête Daffodil: Tiny But Mighty, Rising up in the Cold

All my life, Easter has signified rebirth and new hope. This is #26 in my flower-titled series about sugar/overeating addiction, started 1/31/21. I pledged to capture my struggles in real time and real stories, as they emerge in the garden of life.

The true champs among spring flowers. A band of Buttercup-yellow, ruffled trumpets to announce the season. They bring to mind little girls’ straw hats and color-dipped dresses—handpicked outfits for Easter Mass. The baby blooms emerge head to head, Tête-à-Tête, on fresh green stems. Even their French name is fashionable. They are resilient.

m writing this on Good Friday, and though I’m less devout now than I was as a Saint Mary’s School girl, I remember when the darkness and mourning of this day on the Catholic calendar really hit me.

I was a Rutgers student, returning home for Easter weekend via two buses — the first from New Brunswick to the Port Authority and then the #167, barreling through the Lincoln Tunnel en route to downtown Dumont. (My mother was a firm believer in me finding my way with public transportation.)

I pulled the bus bell cord on Washington Avenue, crossed the street and walked right into Saint Mary’s Church, with its soaring steeple, polished pews, Blessed Virgin statue, snow-white from head to toe. Mary — looking slender, gentle, maternal and kind when I daydreamed during Mass. I liked her long hair. I liked that she was womanly — serene, quiet and insightful, a feminine presence in the midst of a parish run by priests. We women especially knew Mary had power; my mother and grandmother prayed to her for big and little wishes. My sweet, smart friend and neighbor Jean — mother of six — still does. One summer, she gave me green rosary beads wrapped in a gift box.

ood Friday, in the Catholic faith, is the day Jesus dies.

That Friday night, I returned as a young woman who had strode out on her own, left home, gone to college. Now it was spring. I walked into church with my backpack, the belt on my heather-blue wool jacket tied at the waist.

I had found independence on my path, but not without tears. I sobbed when my mother and father turned and walked away from the New Gibbons dorm at Douglass College. I hadn’t been to sleepaway camp, unless a few Girl Scout weekends count; had not slept in a bunk bed, but was allotted the top bunk in my freshman triple; never did my laundry in a strange basement or walked home from a library past bedtime, fearing for my life on a women’s campus, keenly aware of every sound, every leaf in the wind, after the warning talk we heard on orientation weekend.

ut it was in plain, nondenominational Voorhees Chapel —no Blessed Mother statue, no gilded marble altar — that I felt my faith, a pale Mary-blue satin ribbon that tied me to my parents, my grandparents, my family, my friends, the safety of my childhood.

That Good Friday evening, having gone out into the wider world and come back home, still holding my end of the ribbon, I saw the solemnity. The dark shrouds draped over the Crucifix and silent statues, the empty Holy Water vessels and, above all, the somber wooden clacker instead of the tinkling altar bell during the consecration of the bread and wine. It took leaving and coming back to truly recognize the rituals I had witnessed, but not really taken in, all my life. Now that I was broadening my mind, I saw the significance — I revisited the meaning of sign and symbol in my Catholic girlhood.

his Good Friday, I regret to say I did not make it to Mass. The 40 days of Lent ran away on me this year, during a global pandemic — or maybe I ran away from them, as I have many years in my adult life.

But I can still feel the darkness — hear the wooden clacker, picture the shrouded statues. A brooding sky, the church parking lot full when I drove by in Montclair this Holy Thursday night, The Last Supper.

I see the loss, but also the light to come. The beauty that will be revealed at 7:30 a.m. Mass on Sunday…banks of white lilies in crinkly pink foil-wrapped pots, wreaths of spring flowers, songs sent to the heavens…girls and their mothers wearing ribbons, hats (long required for women at Mass, now rare sightings), flowered dresses, squeaky new patent leather shoes….men in crisp pink or yellow checked shirts….our pastor in white and gold vestments.

Catholics believe in the miracle of Easter. We corral great faith to embrace and honor the Christian story.

I see the miracle in our garden.

ven ahead of Easter, the mini daffs rose up, bursting through the frozen ground in all their spunk and glory. Also known as Narcissus Tête-à-Tête (pronounced TET A TET), the formal genus name “honors a beautiful youth who became so entranced with his own reflection that he pined away and the gods turned him into this flower,” according to the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis.

This delicate daffodil puts forth one to three small showgirl flowers per stem. Tête-à-Tête is French for “head to head” — two people meeting, intimately, in private. The frilly, fairy-sized flower hats are quite close to one another atop each stem. Head to head, brains and beauty.

an, Annie and I are glad to see seventh-grade Skipper in our midst now; she has been spending time with her paternal grandparents. Like the flowers, she is tiny but mighty, as skilled with a pretty swoop of eyeliner as she is fast on the soccer field and powerful on her bike. She bursts forth in our garden, and we are happy to behold her.

am not baking, or planning to eat, Easter sweets. I have made my share of bunny-shaped butter cookies with pastel sprinkles and chocolate-dunked ears. I’ve eaten my quota of pretty, soft, chewy, fruity candy — and marshmallows, black licorice jelly beans (Dad’s favorite), sticky sweet eggs, eggspertly crafted treats from the finest chocolatiers.

I will keep an eye out for real bunnies in real grass.

Dan got the young ladies, and Sis, treats at Holsten’s, a time-travel shop with old glass candy cases and long Easter lines, in nearby Bloomfield.

I am enjoying the Tête-à-Tête daffs in our bunny rabbit planter — a yard sale find — and the shape and tradition of the Easter baskets, ready, waiting, open and empty, to hold colorful eggs, Hallmark cards and flowering plants. To hold new hope.

Tonight’s lesson: Change is possible. I don’t want any Easter candy, not the first bite of it, and you could consider that a small miracle. I’m going to layer fresh fruits in a crystal bowl, a wedding gift. Dan, my personal shopper, got cantaloupe, honeydew, strawberries, blackberries, fresh figs and blueberries and my angel in the recovery program suggested snipped mint leaves on top. Yes.

I published my first story about sugar addiction/recovery, “#1, Buttercup: I Know an Addict When I See One,” on January 31, 2021. My next will be “#27, Moonflower.” Whoops — I just noticed four days after publishing this that I already did Moonflower on 2/21/21: Addiction Story #15, Moonflower: Beer Nuts in Hand vs. Walnuts in French China. So my next will be “#27, Pink Magnolia.” I’m giving the stories flower names, from the tiniest bright yellow bloom I saw as a girl on a summer night in Bedford Park to big, wide-open garden varieties, which I hope will signify my journey to self-knowledge on this sweet and sour road.

Alice Garbarini Hurley lives in Montclair, New Jersey. She worked at Seventeen, Good Housekeeping and Sesame Street Parents magazines, and freelanced as a fact checker at Cigar Aficionado. She has blogged daily at her website, Truth and Beauty, since 2010. Alice is in a recovery program.

Magazine maven, craft coffee lover, legal guardian. Passionate about fashion and lipstick — though it may not look that way when I dash to the supermarket.

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