HOW come nobody's ever named a flower for me? Glancing out on my front yard garden I can reel off half a dozen girls' names attached to summer blooms. Any season of the year there's a female-favored flower. There's Susan (black- or brown-eyed), Anne (Queen's lace), Bet (bouncing), Rose (of Sharon, cabbage-, Christmas- and Rose itself). Tawny-tall yellow in the background, Helen's flower. Not to forget Veronica, Lily, and Violet (odorata, common blue, Confederate, et al.).
But no Alma. There are flowers honoring goddesses and other mythical beauties: Andromeda and Clethra, Lunaria and Iris, Anemone, Dianthus, and Venus. All of which flourish within my limited vision. There's Ismene, Niobe (weep, willow, weep), Scylla, Grace (herb of), and Flora (goddess of them all). You get the idea.
But no Alma. Birds have their namesakes, weedy or domestic, too. Robin's Plantain, Larkspur, Cardinal, and Cuckoo flowers. Even Chick Hawk weed and Partridgeberry get into the act. And let us not ignore bird's-eyes (Gillias), Gayfeather, birdfoot (violet), and the rest of that ilk.
To which we might add animal-flowers: troutlily, skunk cabbage, pigweed, cowslip, horsetail, catnip, dogwood, monkey-flower, turtle-, goats-, and dragonhead, adder's-tongue and dande-lion. Insects? How about moth mullein, butterfly milkweed, spiderwort, and fleabane? So who needs an Alma?
We can come close, and I will. Latinized, that is, Alma is derived from mother (loving mother). We might stretch it to suggest Mary whom the angel addressed as ``Hail, Mary, full of grace.'' And go on to (blue-eyed) Mary, Maybelle, May (star), or Mari-gold. Then there's Marguerite, which means daisy. (But that's French, n'est ce pas? Still, when one is as desperate as I am to be connected with some flower: Notice ought to be taken.)
Well, I console myself, never you mind, mater Alma. Comes to mind a modern poem the class clown scribbled in my autograph book back in seventh grade. I was affronted at the time (I took umbrage) as I recall, because his lines were rather unflattering. I was no raving beauty, sporting tortoise-shell spectacles in a day when they were definitely not status symbols. And I was slat-sided (I should be that skinny now!) with bangs and a prominent cowlick that would not slick down.
But as I've learned since, ``It's probably better to be looked over than overlooked.'' Which is what Peter Perkins undoubtedly considered when he inscribed his memorable message. Brief as melting snowflakes he immortalized my moniker that day:
The snow makes all things beautiful, Eaven [sic] the hills and trees, And if the snow makes all things beautiful, Why don't some fall on Alma?''
(Miss Murphy, who was barely lukewarm about autograph books, and noting that I was about to tear out and destroy that page, commanded: ``Leave it in. It might teach you a much-needed lesson in humility.'')