13 Mar Everything’s Coming Up Bluebonnets
Written by: Laura Nell Burton
Spring break 2017 has sprung. We are headed to Houston for a three-night playdate with Clementine, our one-year-old, strawberry-headed cousin (whose cheeks are edible), and next it’s Welcome To New York, where a Nor’easter is on the way (a state-of-emergency, 17-inch, subway-closing-at-4 a.m. blizzard). I’m so relieved I slowed down a beat to check the forecast and text my New Yorker sister, because—confession—I was in the middle of packing spring pea coats and Lilly Pulitzer for my six-year-old. Round two—UGGs, Hunter boots, wool coats, turtlenecks, hats, mittens, scarfs, long underwear…MAJOR mommy mess up, averted!
After a pit stop at BUC-EE’s (the cleanest rest stop in America), my kids are strapped back into their car seats devouring jumbo bags of mini Oreos like the Cookie Monster and singing Get Back Up Again and Hair Up with the colony of rainbow Trolls who’ve taken up residence in our Tahoe, and are blaring their voices from every speaker (because—user error—I can never figure out how to isolate the sound to the backseat).
Are you here in the car with me, yet? Well, exhale…and look through the passenger window at a great, beautiful miracle growing along this Texas highway. Everything’s coming up bluebonnets!
There is an approximate two-to-four week window every March to witness the Texas state flower in all its splendor. But this year was predicted to be exceptional, due to rains and warm winter weather, and there have been sightings since early February of bluebonnets in West Texas (West Texas bluebonnets tend to make their debuts early, bless their Southern belle hearts!).
A little about the personality of a bluebonnet: they like bad soil, full sun, and they don’t like competition. There is a common misconception that it’s illegal to pick bluebonnets—only if you damage state property will you be in trouble with the law. Pick a few at a time, but don’t dig up a whole patch to take home! Learn more at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.
Lady Bird Johnson, whose given name was “Claudia” (before her nursemaid commented that she was “as purty as a lady bird”) was raised in an East Texas town steeped in traditional Southern values. She married Lyndon B. Johnson in a no-notice wedding with a $2.50 ring from Sears at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in our very own San Antonio, Texas, just seven weeks after their first date. She borrowed from her inheritance to help finance his presidential campaign, and became one of the most popular first ladies in U.S history. She was a lifelong advocate for beautifying the nation’s cities and highways and the Highway Beautification Act of 1965 was informally known as “Lady Bird’s Bill.”
Some bluebonnet things to love: Biscuit Home’s Wimberly Red sheet set, Herend’s American Wildflower china (Blue Wood Aster pattern), and Julian Onderdonk’s bluebonnet landscapes. President George W. Bush decorated the Oval Office with three of Onderdonk’s paintings and the Dallas Museum of Art has several rooms dedicated exclusively to his work. His art studio currently resides on the grounds of the Witte Museum in San Antonio, his hometown.
Published in 1983 when I was in the third grade, one of my favorite childhood books is The Legend of the Bluebonnet by Tomie dePaola. When a drought threatens the existence of the tribe, a courageous little Comanche girl named “She-Who-Is-Alone” sacrifices her most beloved possession, her doll, the only relic she has left from her family who died in the famine. The Great Spirit answers with rain, and also with a very special gift—a carpet of flowers the color of her doll’s Blue Jay feather, as far as the eye could see. And “She-Who-Is-Alone,” that day, became “One-Who-Dearly-Loved-Her-People.”
Indeed little Comanche girl, Lady Bird said it best: “Where flowers bloom, so does hope.” Hope—rooting in the hearts of Texas highway travelers, like me, today, and forevermore, as we take in, with wonder and appreciation, the sight of her lovely Lady Bird legacy.