Cover art by Jackie Kim
My grandma loves the color yellow. She has a big yellow house. And, in that big yellow house, there is more yellow. Her kitchen is yellow. Her walls, her placemats, her seat cushions, her dishes, and her dish towels are all yellow. There are three bedrooms in her big yellow house—of the three of them, two have a color palette that centers around the color yellow. My grandpa’s signature outfit was a pair of gray shoes, gray slacks, and a crewneck sweatshirt, that was—you guessed it— yellow. I visited my grandma for spring break during my senior year of high school. It was cold outside, which I was not expecting. She let me borrow one of her jackets for our shopping trip. It was yellow.
My grandma is also a big flower person. For many years she has been part of a garden club. I could not tell you the exact name of it, but I believe its reach extends either statewide or region-wide. She received a fancy award from the organization around three years ago and it was named after her. The award is glass and in the shape of a cup with a golden plaque at the bottom. It currently sits in one of my grandma’s grandfather clocks. That’s another thing my grandma loves: grandfather clocks.
I went to a meeting once, for her garden club. It was in an old style building that had a massive red lawn chair in front of it. Inside the meeting room were black foldable chairs, all occupied by older women. I was the youngest in the room by around 50 decades. I was out of place due to my age, and made especially more so when the older ladies gushed over me. Diane, why didn’t you introduce us earlier! Your grandkids are such beautiful young ladies! Oh, they’re so pretty! You must be so proud! My grandma spoke at that meeting, and presented some details about some sort of flower arrangement classes that she wanted to give. She had to bend the microphone down on the podium to accommodate her height, which is under five feet.
When you combine my grandma’s love for the color yellow and her love for flowers, you get yellow flowers. Of course, being a flower lover, my grandma has a garden in her front yard. It is on the other side of her winding driveway, and it is very organized. There are even pebble walking paths in her garden. But, when I was younger, that garden was not what caught my eye most often. To this day, it still is not. Instead, what catches my eye every single time are the sunflowers that surround the walking path to her front door.
I remember thinking when I was younger that her sunflowers were the weirdest sunflowers I had ever seen. The circle that is usually found in the middle of a sunflower was black, not brown. And, it was not a two-dimensional-looking circle, but a three-dimensional-looking sphere. This was made possible by the fact that the yellow petals only formed around the bottom of the sphere, instead of all around it, which is what creates the two-dimensional-looking circle on a true sunflower. The petals on these sunflowers were much shorter and more scarce, which created a less voluminous look to the flowers.
Even though my eight-year-old self thought they were weird, I told my grandma that I liked her sunflowers. She told me that they were not sunflowers, but black-eyed susans. I had never heard of a black-eyed susan before, and I thought it was a ridiculous name. I thought sunflowers were prettier, so I still called them sunflowers in my head.
My grandpa, my sisters and I would sometimes play fun games, and one of our games involved my grandma’s black-eyed susans. If my sisters or I won, then my grandpa would give us a dollar. Sometimes if we lost he would make us scratch his back. The four of us would sit on the front porch of my grandma’s house, and he would make us put our hands over our eyes. He made sure we were not peeking, though I sometimes peeked anyway because I have always been a competitive person who is eager to win. He would then ask us how many petals were on one of the black-eyed susans that grew in a pot near the step we were sitting on. We would each give him our guesses, and while keeping our eyes closed, we would hold up the same number of fingers as the number we shouted out. My grandpa would declare the winner, and would give that grandchild a dollar. Even though these memories of my time at my grandma’s house are about a decade old, they are still the first things I think about when I am in the passenger seat of her old beige BMW, riding down her winding driveway, the sight of her big yellow house and her black-eyed susans reaching my eyes as we round the corner.