Ahhh, the bird of paradise—my grandmother's favourite flower. Every time I see one now, I see her in the red and orange and yellow and green, casting a spell of independence and courage over me. My coworker slash fortune-teller-turned-copywriter bff, Jasmine Pahl, had a beautiful tropical bouquet sent for her birthday and I told her the story. Remembering my grandmother, she shot me over this beautiful haiku a few days later and made my day:
Take a cup of water
from the ocean
And there I am
—Jack Kerouac, Haiku Pops
My grandmother, the highly regarded physician, Dr. Alice Jean Zarfas, was a very special woman with a brilliant mind and a big, stubborn heart. She taught me about keeping lemon cookies in the freezer, always using the expensive dishes, what it was like as an air traffic controller in Halifax during the Second World War, and mid-century modern furniture.
I have a few very distinct memories of her personal politics but this one kind of sticks out. We were in the car and "I Need You" by LeAnn Rimes came onto the radio. I was belting out the lyrics, "I need you like water, like breath, like rain, I need you like mercy from heaven's gate..." and I remember her whipping around from the driver's seat and yelping, "Alyson, don't you ever need a man like that! You will always need to support and comfort yourself." I remember my mom piping up from the passenger seat, "Never a good idea to put all your eggs in one basket." I remember taking a mental note. To this day, I consciously prioritize this kind of self-love and care and have always wondered how influential this conversation really was.