Do I Dare to Cut Hydrangeas?

Author name
Sheila Broderick, LCSW

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Recently, a friend’s simple act of thoughtfulness sent me on a contemplative journey that made me think about the start of the Fall 2013 semester at Duke.  Engaged in my usual Saturday domestic bliss, I was interrupted by the familiar chirp of my phone indicating the presence of a text.  There was a photo image of cut hydrangea, blue in color and spilling haphazardly out of the vase and onto the boarder of the face of my phone.  "Here," the message read, "I cut these from my garden and wanted to share them with you."  I reply, "Dude, I have crazy flowers all over my garden and still I buy cut flowers from the farmers market for my yard because I cannot bear to cut them...what does this SAY about me?”  It bothered me all day.


So, later, I trimmed my hydrangea and brought the big beautiful blue spheres of happiness right into my bedroom.  I found it positively liberating.


I thought about Prufrock.  I grow old I grow old I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.  Do I dare?  Do I dare to eat a peach?  Do I dare to live my life?  Do I dare to approach this new empty nest phase with courage and valor?  Do I dare to greet the students preparing to return to campus with openness, honesty and vulnerability?  Do I dare to admit to my colleagues that every year as August approaches I become aware of fear?  This year made more melancholy by the “, baby bird” departure of my daughter?


The start of this school year is different for me as it brings with it an empty nest.  To those Duke parents who are also empty nesting this year, I want to say to you what I am saying to myself and what I recently said to my daughter:  Be like my Hydrangea friend.


Take some risks.  Be uncomfortable.  Screw up.  Try some things.  I am a living testament to an overdose of safety.  Don’t be like me.  Cautious….measured……appropriate.  Be like my daughter, and perhaps like yours, with their unapologetic, brash “I can do this” attitude.  For the love of all that is Holy and at least Botanical, cut your damn Hydrangeas.  Bring them in the house, bugs and all.  Let them shed and drop their petals on your floor.  Cut them and enjoy them in your house while you grieve their leaving your yard.  Do it all.  Eat that peach.  My daughter understands this, of course, because she grew up in Durham with a non-cooking mother and therefore frequented the Cosmic Cantina.  I invite you to visit when you are in town.  The stairs that lead up to the Cosmic have the lines of  “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” painted on them.  For those of you parents bringing your “children” to us next week, you will discover how lucky you are to be depositing your beloved in such a smart and literate community.  Rest assured for my part, I stand ready to be brave and deeply committed to your “children.”  We have cut our hydrangeas.  Now, what are you going to do with your time and energy?  And what will I, for that matter?