Three separate handfuls of strong, narrow leaves, still partially folded closed, had once again pierced through the packed, dry earth surrounding the towering Washington palm at the end of our garden. The first yellow daffodil, a trumpet on a background of starry petals, fluttered on its slender stem. I knew that the sudden appearance of these determined shoots, accompanied by the first flower, meant that spring was around the corner. My husband and I paused on our walk around our garden to enjoy the transient beauty.

They need to get over the shock of being transplantedMy grandmother, Inge, who always insisted that she was too young to be called “Granny,” had been an avid gardener. She had brought these bulbs with her from Northern England on one of her visits to Israel. She had lovingly dried the bulbs, wrapped them in soft tissue, and transported them to the Holy Land, hoping to bring some of the gentle beauty of an English garden to our home in Beit Shemesh.

Eight years ago, my husband and I, listening carefully to Inge’s advice, had planted the daffodil bulbs. Obviously, a flower as delicate as a daffodil needs to be placed in a flower bed. Now, while we have a large garden, we have only one flower bed, a narrow strip under the bedroom windows. The rest of the garden is a children-friendly garden. An olive tree to climb up, orange and lemon trees to feast on, bougainvillea bushes to hide under, a few old tires filled with geraniums that grow without any outside help, and a patch of what we call the lawn. So, deciding where to place the daffodils was easy, because we didn’t have many options. Following the iron-clad rule, we made sure that the depth of each hole was exactly three times the height of the bulb that was to go in. We placed the bulbs inside, covered them and marked the spots with plastic knives.

“The bulbs won’t sprout for the first couple of years,” Inge warned us. “They need to get over the shock of being transplanted. Keep watering them. After that, you’ll have beautiful flowers every year,” she promised. “Some of the bulbs may never sprout; that’s what the knives are for. If after three years you’ve never seen anything growing, pull the bulb out and throw it away.” We nodded, happy to have filled our flower bed with daffodils that needed as much care as geraniums. But we were left with three more bulbs and no more space in the flower bed.

“Plant them at the bottom of your garden. Around the base of your palm tree. That way you’ll see them dancing when you look out the sitting room window,” Inge suggested. It sounded beautiful. I could already imagine myself sitting on the couch, with all the children around me, and gazing across our patch of lawn to point out the daffodils tossing their heads in a semicircle at the base of the Washington palm. In our enthusiasm we ignored the fact that the soil there is packed as hard as rock, and forgot that the small Washington palm would one day tower to over ten meters. We planted the bulbs, marked their spots with white plastic knives, and remembered, for the first few months, to water them.

We didn’t wait three years to pull out the knives. Eager little gardeners plucked them out of the soil within a few weeks after Inge had left. I reminded the children not to trample the ground around the base of the palm tree, but without the little plastic knives, my reminders were useless.

I thought of how the daffodils symbolized Inge’s lifeI never had the chance to tell Inge that the daffodils under the palm had sprouted. The first shoots appeared the spring after she had passed away, when the winter rains had soaked the earth and the gentle sun began to warm the soil. Initially, I thought that the stiff leaves reaching to the sky were a new kind of weed. After all, the bulbs had been planted three years ago, and there were no markers to remind me. Then a few days later, I noticed pale yellow petals folded over one another, waiting patiently to reveal their glory. The next day the flower opened, a brilliant yellow cup surrounded by bright yellow petals held high and proud on a stiff, green stalk. One flower followed the other, until we had enough for a bouquet to grace our Shabbat table.

The flowers eventually wilted, the leaves dried out and drooped, and the children trampled over them until they lay in a flat, green-yellow tangle. After all, the daffodils weren’t growing in a flower bed, but in a semicircle at the base of the palm. And the palm had grown taller, and it was great fun to chase each other round the thick trunk. I worried about what would happen the following year. But the next year, the daffodils were back in full force. And it’s been the same every year since. What about the daffodils in the flower bed under the windowsill? They never sprouted.

This year, when Inge’s daffodils sprouted once again, my husband made an interesting comment. “Inge’s daffodils,” he said. “Everyone leaves something behind them in this world.”

I thought of how the daffodils symbolized Inge’s life. My grandfather, a member of the British Air Force, had been posted in many different countries: England, Germany, Singapore, Cyprus, Kenya. In each new country, Inge put down roots and built a warm home until it was time to move again. Gazing at the daffodils beneath the towering palm, I thought of the irony of it all. The flowers placed in the flower bed with the irrigation system and fertilizer, and protected from trampling feet, never sprouted, never had a chance to display their beauty. Nothing came of them. But the daffodils that were planted in the hard-packed dirt at the base of the palm tree, those that are trampled on year after year, continue to break through the hard soil and proudly sprout their yellow blooms.

Yes, Inge left us beautiful daffodils. And she left them in the right place. I could clearly hear her message: Life will put you in some hard spots; that is where your soul will bloom.