My grandmother lived in an old war-scarred building in central Budapest. There were gunshot wounds on the outside façade and even the courtyard wall showed bullet holes from the hand-to-hand combat that took place in 1944 and again in 1956.

She lived in a tiny flat on the second floor with windows facing the cobbled courtyard that was in shadow for most of the day. For no more than a couple of hours, the sun’s rays found their way to her window and graced the otherwise dull living room with light. This was the world she inhabited for over 40 years.

She didn’t have many possessions and most of what she owned was utilitarian. The exceptions were some crocheted doilies on a coffee table, a few precious crystal glasses in a vitrine and two pots of cyclamens, pink and white which she kept on the windowsill in between old-fashioned double opening windows.

Her cyclamens bloomed even in the depths of winter when snow lay ankle deep on pavements. The space between the two windows became a greenhouse where her precious flowers flourished and brought delight. Cyclamens were her favourite flowers and she had a gift for encouraging them to bloom.

I have never been quite so lucky with cyclamens. I overwater them, have them too close to a western window where the leaves fry or I place them too far from the sun so that the flowers have to crane their necks to get to the light. My flowers never look better than on the day I receive them, wrapped in tissue paper from a well-meaning friend.

‘They look so beautiful!’ I say and I mean it with all my heart. But my hear sinks a little too. I know that no matter what, in a month, the flowers will be well past their glory days. They will never look like the burst of blooms on my grandmother’s windowsill.

‘Thank you so much, Cyclamens always remind me of my grandmother,’ I say wistfully. Then, my friend, satisfied with her choice, knows that she has given me the perfect gift…

8 thoughts on “Cyclamens”

  1. I love the way that cyclamens are so beautiful and so loved by you – and they are also such a symbol of your grandmother’s victory over circumstance. I also love the way in which the sunlight reached her living room for a while each day. These joys really do transform a living space – I know I love the way my kitchen gets some winter sunlight in the afternoons. It’s glorious and transforms the space.

    Liked by 1 person

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