Pink daffodils, daily color comics don't fit

I saw them in an artist's sketch on a Sunday supplement page where usually they sell commemorative coins or dolls that look like Princess Di. Pink daffodils.

Never had I heard of such a thing. I had to have some. Daffodils announce spring like nothing else, or sometimes mark the spot where a house once stood long after its foundation and family have crumbled. Daffodils have purpose.

I sent away my order, and soon the pink daffodil bulbs arrived.

They looked like all other daffodil bulbs, squatty and grayish, carefully packaged in cellophane beneath the mailing bag. Their pink promise was well-disguised somewhere beneath the oniony layers.

I told everyone who would listen about my potentially pink daffodils. I shared some bulbs with my father and a friend, then plugged my own share into a place of honor in the front yard. I waited.

It wasn't until the first common, yellow daffodil sprang up that I began to have misgivings about the pink ones. I stood at the bedroom window and looked out at the perfection of an unplanned yard. The butter-yellow flowers against spring's righteous green would make Monet cry with inadequacy.

Trouble was, I couldn't imagine the same scene with pink. Tulips are pink. Roses can be pink. Pink petunias in a window box are hard to beat. I covet irises of every color, and I've even come around to appreciating pink dogwood.

But daffodils should be yellow. A pink one would have only shock value, like a punkster's purple hair or a toenail painted red. If snow one day fell from the sky in pink, who could stand it?

I began to dread their appearance. I wished I'd never been seduced by the crummy ad. I phoned my daddy and asked if his had bloomed. They had not.

I waited some more.

It wasn't as bad as I feared. When finally my freak daffodils emerged, they weren't so much pink as a subdued yellow. More of a cream, really. Timid, announcing nothing.

They had taught me a lesson about nature, about myself. Some things ought not to be tampered with lest you spoil perfection. Or tradition.

And that brings me to another failed color scheme. This time it was someone else's misguided notion about pigmentation that made me cringe.

I bought a newspaper with color daily comics. I had heard of such a thing, but never seen it for myself. The comics were all laid out in their daily size and place, only wearing Sunday color.

It was, of course, sacrilege. Color comics are a reward for making it through another week, a treat, like dessert, that shouldn't come before the meal.

When I was a kid, I fought with my sisters and Daddy over who would be first to read the color comics. I wanted to know what was happening in the jungle with The Phantom, and about the romantic trials unfolding in The Heart of Juliet Jones. Color made the characters more real and vivid and exciting.

But only on Sunday.

Why, color comics during the week would have been like chocolate milk on Tuesday. The milkman only brought chocolate milk on Saturday, which made it exceedingly special.

In their constant scheming to appeal to more and younger readers, newspapers sometimes do desperate and unseemly things. This was one of them. I was so turned off that I had to force myself to look at favorites, Arlo and Janis and Peanuts.

I'll admit to being a curmudgeon about such matters. I still miss the drama of only black-and-white photographs in a newspaper.

But I know this much: You can add color, or the wrong color, to a thing and lessen its impact. Sometimes paint is a mistake.

Color comic strips on a daily basis are a gaudy, misplaced, ridiculous thing, like sequins on the stiff sheets of a sailboat, or wheels on the Eiffel Tower. Like pink daffodils in a garden.

Rheta Grimsley Johnson's regional mailing address is Rural Route 5, Iuka, MS. 38852.

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