Dogwood Days

April 30, 2013

(You should know I struggled to push publish on this. They come here for sass, not sentimentality I told myself. I said the story wasn't good enough, wasn't big enough, wasn't worthy enough. It was trivial and childlike and meaningless, I argued. So here's me, pushing publish anyways.)

We're gettin' sentimental up in this joint today. 

It's springtime. It's sunny. The trees are in full bloom. And here's what I'm thinking of. 

The dogwood trees of Hillsdale College.

When I see a dogwood, I think of you. And you. I think of a spring haze leading to a summer daze. I think of finding you, of losing you, of first meeting you. I think of the early days when everything was happy and bright and our story was just beginning. I think of how those dogwoods looked like relief. Sweet, sweet relief. They looked like a hurdle overcome, a past left behind, a future open before me. I think of sending you away in front of those dogwood trees to war, to deserts, to people who wanted to hurt you. I think of being renewed. I think of the college that shaped us, the times that tried us and the love that relieved us. They've always been kind to me, the dogwood days.


The scent of the dogwood trees was a drug to their senses, guiding them, goading them. In the bright clean heat of a springtime afternoon, when the world was tinted pink and lovely underneath the loaded branches of the dogwood trees, they had made such a tiny bet. One buckeye bite per every flower. She, a part-time feminist who stood unnecessarily tall in her desire to never reduce herself to a baking, cooking, husband-hunting girl. He, an overly large, bulging, heavy football player who preferred the little moments to grand gestures. She wanted a grand gesture. 

But somewhere in the middle of finals, summer plans, interviews, offers, acceptances, graduation goodbyes and sentimental sisterhood moments she snapped. She didn't want flowers because they were part of a bet. She wanted flowers because he wanted to give them to her, not because she had made him something. She told him as much on the phone in a 30-second tirade  to which he promptly responded "take a nap and call me back in an hour." 

But she didn't take a nap. Her Catholic guilt washed over her in an instant, and she huffed and puffed her way into the kitchen. She dropped the four ingredients--powdered sugar, peanut butter, butter and chocolate chips--onto the counter with a loud bang and got to work. She would be the bigger person here. She would make them because she cared, not because anything was coming from it. 

That night was harder than she imagined. They said a terse and strained goodbye for the summer. Neither one of them wanted to budge, neither one give the first inch. She pulled back from his arms and propped herself up on his chest. 

"New bet," she said.

"What?" He didn't know where this was going.

"In the next 5 minutes, I bet I can surprise you more than you can surprise me."


"I'm going to surprise you."

"I don't believe you."

"Wait here."

She scrambled off the bed, down the stairs and into her car. Back at the house, she threw the buckeyes into any container she could find, and drove back there in a flash. He was half asleep when she popped his door open and she sat down softly on the edge of the bed. 

"Close your eyes."

"They are closed, I'm sleeping."

She punched him. Softly, of course. "Close them. Open your mouth."

He obediently did as he was told. She popped a buckeye into his mouth, and watched as his face lit up. He grabbed her in a bear hug and threw her on the bed, showering her in kisses and compliments. 

"I thought the bet was off?" He grinned mischievously. 

"It was. I just did it because I care." He smiled in response, and rolled her back on top of him. 

After a few more minutes, it was time for the next goodbye. The real goodbye, this time. She gathered her things, and was surprised when he got up too. He grabbed his car keys. "You don't have to, I drove here." 

"Well I can at least walk you to your car."

"It's fine. You have an exam at 8 am, get in bed."

"No, I'm going to walk you to your car."

She would have been happy with just that. They walked in silence, hand in hand, down the stairs, their arms pulling apart as she veered right to her parked car. He let their arms extend fully before pulling her back into his side, wrapping his arm around her waist. "I told you, I drove here! What are you doing?" He pulled her along with him towards his car."What--"



He clicked his key fob twice, and the back gate of his car lifted up, triggering the overhead light to shine down. 



Back seat laid down, dogwoods stretching as far as the eye could see. Bathed in the overhead light, the beautiful pink petals shown brighter than any star in the sky. Branches and branches of dogwoods. There must of been hundreds of flowers on those branches, and they were beautiful and bright and light and sweet smelling and simple and grand and perfect and all hers. It was a carpet of dogwood flowers and it was for her.

"I thought the bet was over," she whispered.

He nuzzled the top of her head. "I think I won."

Somwhere between that setting sun
I'm on fire and born to run
You looked at me and I was done
Well, we're just getting started


  1. oh. my. gosh! why would you ever contemplate not publishing this! autumn, this is so perfectly amazing- i loved every sentence and every picture you painted for me.

    so happy you found the bravery to hit publish! :)


    1. Thank you so much Kayla. Your blog was definitely an inspiration to hit 'publish.' I was like if Kayla can publish beautiful writing like this every single day, surely I can do it for just one day =)

  2. You are right -- I come here for the sass. I read your blog because I want to roll my eyes and say to myself "oh Autumn, only you girlfriend, only you".

    But this was SO refreshing. What a beautiful and vulnerable "tale". I will say I didn't read this expecting my eyes to well up -- but you got me.

    Great post -- I loved it.

    1. Shannnnnnon thank you for the encouragement =)


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