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Day Three: Jeanna Stay

No Substitute for Chocolate

“I have some bad news,” her husband said as he came home from Sunday bishopric meetings. “I really tried to suggest it. But they wouldn’t listen. You’re not getting food for Mother’s Day. You’re getting pansies.”

“Seriously?” She shook her head. It’s not that she was surprised, just that she was hoping for a little magic this year.

“I know, I’m sorry. I couldn’t convince them. I’ll try again next year, though.” He kissed her cheek and joked, “But hey, I hear you can eat pansies.”

She stuck her tongue out at him.

I am not getting pansies again next year, she silently vowed. I’ll make sure of that. Then she smiled. She had an idea.

It’s not that she didn’t appreciate the sentiment. She got the whole symbolism thing—flowers, creation, beautiful things, children, sunshine, la-di-da. But honestly, all she saw in those blossoms was another responsibility. And when she inevitably forgot to water the flower and it withered (she really was terrible with plants), she would feel guilty. How could she let it just die like that? It was her Mother’s Day gift, after all!

And she couldn’t help comparing her sad little pansies to the gifts the men got on Father’s Day. They got chocolate. Or soda “pop” (ha ha). Or Rice Krispie treats shaped as hearts. Something delicious they could eat and enjoy, then move on. A one-shot deal, not like flowers. You never have to water or weed or fertilize a cookie. Nope, the men always got the finished product.

This year, though, she’d cajoled her husband into asking the bishopric to buck tradition and get the women a little something to nibble on. He was clearly not as persuasive as she’d hoped. So another year would come and go, and the women in the ward would all get a pansy plant in a plastic cup. The sisters with the gardening ability of weed killer would have to try to take care of it. The ones with the prize-winning gardens would have to figure out where to hide it. The pansies themselves would either die miserably or suffer shamefully as the lowly pansies amidst the orchids.

This year would come and go, but she and the other sisters could make sure that next year was different.

The weeks passed, and the big day came. Talks were given, testimonies borne. Mothers were celebrated and adored; tissues were used in abundance. Her oldest son was in Primary, and he sang with all the exuberance of a Sunbeam. Watching him wave his hands like a very enthusiastic chorister, she couldn’t decide if her tears were more from laughter or from love.

At the end of the meeting, the bishop stood up. “We’d like all the women in the ward to stand for a moment. The young men would like to pass out a special gift to honor you.” And then the flowers came. Pink ones, purple, yellow, white. Cute, though perhaps a little pathetic from not having been watered for a few days. (That’s what they got for putting the high priests’ group leader in charge of caring for the poor pansies.) The women in the ward darted looks at each other and tried to hide gleeful smirks. Discerning husbands shifted uncomfortably in their seats. Something was afoot. When church went on as usual, there was a vague sense of relief in the air—the feeling of some unknown bullet barely dodged.

The next night she whistled happily as she prepared dinner. She cut, chopped, and sautéed with care. “Dinner!” she called.

Once they were seated, she set a plate in front of her husband with a flourish. He looked down at it and paused. She could almost see his wheels spinning. “Salad, huh?” he finally began. “It looks … different. What’s in it?”

“Oh, you know, the usual.” She smiled sweetly. “Lettuce, tomatoes … ” She paused long enough for him to look relieved and place a forkful in his mouth. “ … Pansies.”

He nearly choked. “Oh,” he coughed. He looked down at the food on his plate. “So that’s the, um, purple stuff?” he finally asked. She nodded.

Down the street, another husband was eyeing his plate with suspicion. Was that pink he saw? Someone else was trying to discreetly scrape the toppings off a steak. All around the ward, men were eating pansies. Pansies in salads, in casseroles, with chicken or beef. Culinary creativity knew no bounds. Some of the less astute men vocalized their internal groans of disgust or uncertainty. Some of those men did not have a pleasant evening. The more careful among them plastered on their smiles and simply failed to ask for seconds.

And just like that, the pansies were gone. The rest of the week passed without incident. Menus returned to normal. Sighs of relief were heard. And the next Sunday, when her husband arrived home from his bishopric meeting, he had some news.

“We discussed it, and it’s unanimous. Next year, you get chocolate.”

# # #

Jeanna is a wife, mother, and aspiring novelist. She spends her days fighting imaginary bad guys with her oldest daughter and helping her younger daughter try on every coat and mitten in the house, usually at the same time. Her husband wisely buys her chocolate for Mother’s Day.

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