On a particular Monday afternoon, in the early days of my marriage, my mind was heavy. I remember feeling overwhelmed as I backed carefully into a parking spot in front of my husband’s and my new little apartment. I had taken to backing in to parking spaces because my car had taken to not starting at random times, and it was easier for someone to give me a jump.
My hands were full as I trudged up the stairs, shivering slightly on one of the select days Charleston had chosen to be cold that winter. Each step I took was like a hammer driving a nail in a little deeper, every doubt and fear that weighed upon my mind being driven further and further into my heart.
We didn’t know where we would be in six months after my husband graduated from school, and I was worried about how we would pay all our bills. I didn’t know if I would have time to take the classes I needed to graduate and complete the internship I intended to start in a few months.
I didn’t know if we would have to move away from my Carolina home, chasing work, leaving behind the distinctly Southern springtime smells of honeysuckle and jasmine, the salty sea air and even the scent of a raw and ready marsh. I was sad, and afraid, and didn’t know how I was going to get through it all.
I turned my key in the door slowly, careful not to drop the bundles I had balanced beneath my arms, and let myself into the apartment. I put my things down and sank down into our soft sofa. My eyes flickered up then to the usually empty pitcher that sat on our counter. It was a beautiful little pitcher that we had gotten for our wedding, white and gently curved. I had been talking for weeks about how nice it would be if we put some kind of flowers in it, but I had never gotten around to it.
But that day it was filled with sunflowers, happy and yellow. They were the inexpensive kind, browning a bit on the edges. But they were there. A piece of twine was also tied around the neck of the pitcher in a messy little bow, somehow perfect in its inexact proportions. My husband had put those flowers there, and taken the time to tie that bow.
I knew in that silly instant that everything was going to be OK. I wasn’t alone, and no matter where life took us, I would always have my husband there beside me, sunflowers in hand. He was looking out for me, and I was going to look out for him.
We would put each other first, because that’s what love makes a person do; what it inspires a person to do. Love isn’t in the grand gestures, nor in the expensive Christmas gifts, or even in the diamonds. It’s in the sunny, slightly wilted sunflowers, and a carefully hand-tied bow.
Caitlin A. Rush is a graduate student at the University of Alabama, working on her Master of Library and Information Science. From Beaufort, she lives in Charleston.