This is a column that Momma first published 16 years ago, in the Fall of 1994. Last week several people mentioned this column to my sister, as they had seen these spider lilies growing around town and remembered this article. She asked me to run it this week and I agreed. At that point something unique happened, particularly in light of the label “promise lilies” that Momma attached to these flowers. The morning after agreeing to rerun this article I came out of my house – the same house my parents moved into back in the Fall of 1948 -- and there in the front yard a single “promise lily” had emerged. This particular lily popped up in a place where there had never before been any of the flowers, at least in the 52 years I’ve been around. So, I don’t ask you to accept it, but I believe that was Momma’s way of saying, “I’m glad you’re finally running that article one more time. So here is the story of the “promise lilies.” – John Agan
They are back again! Yesterday they were not there, but today there is a bright red circle of lilies around each pine tree in the back yard. Some folks call them "spider lilies" and others call them "surprise lilies", but to me they are "promise lilies", and I'd like to tell you why.
Long years ago, about 46 years ago, a newlywed couple moved into a house on the Sibley Road. After the long hours on their jobs they came home to plant the foundation planting around their new home. That autumn the days were short as they are by November, and the planting must be done by the headlights on their car. Long into the night they worked, planting roses in the newly created rose garden, and arbor vitae at either side of the house. Akin Nursery in Shreveport had planned the foundation planting, and the young couple followed the instructions. Each thing they planted such as the sasanquas and the camellias and the azaleas had specific instructions for their care. So much to do, and so little time to get it done.
The young can work the late hours and still spring back full of vitality and energy the following morning. All along the Sibley Road the older residents watched with interest as the newlyweds borrowed a tractor and filled in and leveled the front yard, and did the planting. One couple who lived down the road where the service station and the little convenience store is now located were especially interested. Late one night as the newlyweds worked, a little old man appeared in the car headlights, introduced himself as the husband of one of the friends of the young woman's mother. He asked permission to come down during the day and plant some bulbs around the trees in the yard. He said that there would be nothing to do to them, just wait for the following autumn and one day they would just pop up and bloom; no foliage, just a straight stalk with a large clump of red at the top. They questioned him about the care because everything else they had planted required certain fertilizer, applied at a certain time, spraying and watering. Still, he maintained that there was nothing they had to do to keep them living and blooming. He said to trust him, that he promised they would not be disappointed. He said that he promised they would come back year after year and be a bright spot in the autumn days. With considerable doubt they consented for him to come the next day. Promptly they forget his promise and the trip to see them.
Months went by, and the shrubbery grew. The roses grew and bloomed, and the sasanquas and camellias and azaleas all had their season of blooming and being cared for. One morning in September they looked out into the backyard and there in a perfect circle around each pine tree was a beautiful cluster of red. Yesterday they had not been there and today they were. Then they remembered the promise the old man had made -- just wait and see, he had said. "I promise, I promise, wait and see", were the words they remembered.
The newlyweds were my late husband, J.C., and me, and our elderly friend was Mr. Craton Alexander. He called them "spider lilies" but I call them my "promise lilies" because of the dear oold man who promised the young couple bright blooms year after year and quite unexpectedly. He was right, the lilies kept his promise to us.
About thirty or more years ago, one morning his wife, whom I called Aunt Kate Alexander, could not wake him. He had gone on to be with Jesus. Still for more than forty-five years the lilies have bloomed each autumn. Each time I see them I remember the kindly old man who wanted to help the young couple with their planting. He had to convince me but he was right. His promises were kept and are still being kept, as once again the lilies bloom for me. Even the young husband has now gone to be with Jesus, too, Promises made and promises kept.