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By Any Other Name by Mira Bohannan Kumar

I have memories stretching back several years of seeing huge pink and white blossoms hanging on the bushes in our backyard in late spring. I once asked my mother what they were, and she told me they were peonies.

That was the start of my love affair with the big, gentle flowers.

I have a tendency to personify (and in some cases, anthropomorphize) inanimate objects, and this has extended to flowers. Lilies are delicately lovely, but they always seem so easily destructible to me, like a fairy’s sigh would pull each freckled petal from the stem; furthermore, their thick warm-toned pollen stains the hands of whomever they touch, and I think I’m allergic.

Roses are the typical flower of love, and I suppose I can see why: they are beautiful and complex. But roses have always felt cold to me, aloof and exclusive; when not paired with their own in bouquets, they look vaguely uncomfortable and snooty. (Also, the thorns. What is that? Defense mechanisms don’t need to be perfect.)

But peonies are lovely and bright in an open, approachable sort of way. Their buds expand so far they’re a convex arc, taking in everything they can, and putting it back out again in expressions of beauty. They’re the mockingbird of flowers; they have no cutting defenses, no discoloring discharge, they are simply there to make everyone else happy. A peony in a vase can be a bouquet all by itself, alone not in an uppity attitude, but simply content in the knowledge that it can make good even on its own.

I don’t want to be a lily, going through life too brittle, staining the memories of those I’ve known. I don’t want to be a rose, closed up and thorny, refusing to be with any but my own kind.

I want to be open and free, happy with others or alone, with whatever I have. I want to be convex, gathering life up in my arms and presenting it to others with a smile.

And who knows, maybe if I’m very good, I might come back as a peony.

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