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Hollywood and Daffodils

by | Mar 24, 2014

Every year when the daffodils start to bloom, I meet nostalgia at every turn.


Here are the ivory flowers with dark orange centers, the ones I dug from behind the barn after my mother died. Their radiance and fragrance take me right back to the time I spent with her in her garden. I’m with her again, arranging little bouquets everywhere in my home and sharing them with people I love.

At our back door is a curving row of bright yellow daffodils. Robby’s mother gave me a brown grocery bag of those bulbs from her garden. They bloomed here the year after her death, and every spring in the five years since.

Re-arranged by squirrels, jaunty little jonquils come up in nooks and crannies all over the yard. I don’t remember planting any of them. I think they date back to my grandmother Irene, and certainly, as well, my Aunt Janet Yoder, who both gardened here before I ever did.They are my favorites.


And then there’s Irene Dunne, the Hollywood actress from the forties and fifties. No, I don’t have any of her daffodils. But every spring, I go through the ritual of dusting off her long-ago gift and filling it with our favorites.


When little Robert Wayne Ackerman II was born 67 years ago, the neighbors in Beverly Hills, California celebrated with flowers. I don’t know exactly what blossoms Irene Dunne chose to send baby Robby in this rather oddly-colored duck, but these days I choose daffodils.

In addition to the duck, there is also this sweet little rocking horse from the same era. Lenten roses are the perfect color to ride on his back.


We can’t remember who sent the flower arrangement in this one—maybe Lucille Ball! Of course I can’t say for sure, but we do have a guest book in which her name is signed as a regular at Ackerman parties! Then again, it could just as well have been David Niven or Susan Hayward or the man who played Tarzan!

Well, Robbysojourn in Beverly Hills turned out to be brief. And from what I’ve read about Irene Dunne, she eventually moved on from acting because she was more interested in living. I like to think that for her, living might have included planting some flowers of her own, enjoying the feel of the earth on her hands. I’m grateful for the way she celebrated the birth of the man I love, long before I ever knew him—with flowers! What better way to speak to the heart across the decades, especially at daffodil time?


Susan Yoder Ackerman is a writer and gardener in Newport News, Virginia. Both her writing and her gardening are enhanced by tending a century-old family farmhouse and eight grandchildren that come and go. You can email Susan at [email protected].