Eleven Roses

Rose #12

Clara and I often get smiles from strangers as we walk through town, with Clara riding in her backpack, singing and swinging her feet. It was a great feeling that she was so happy: just three days ago she woke up from her nap with a fever of 106 degrees, and spent a traumatic evening in the emergency room. Any parent or child is frightened by such an experience, so I felt extra grateful for my sunny little girl on our walk today.

Today, Clara and I were walking home from a local grocery store, which wisely gives out free balloons to children. Clara always looks forward to getting a balloon on our trips to this store. She had done an especially nice job being patient at the store, after waiting a long time for a prescription.

She was thrilled when the selection included pink balloons. Pink looms large in her philosophy, especially these days, since the antibiotic she is taking for the infection that caused the high fever is bubble-gum pink.

Clara was singing “Mister Golden Sun” to her balloon, as we walked under a tree, and — POP! There went the balloon.

Needless to say, Clara immediately burst into tears. “My pink balloon popped!” She has had many balloons before, but is always very careful with them. This was the first time she ever experienced this minor trauma of childhood, and she was inconsolable.

A college-aged young man who was walking behind us noticed Clara’s tears. He was clearly preparing for an important date, as he was carrying a bouquet of a dozen long-stemmed roses. The young man stopped and talked to Clara. “Your balloon popped; that’s very sad.”

“What’s your name?” Unfortunately, Clara was too shy and upset to answer, but I filled in for her, touched that a young guy who was probably hurrying home to get ready for a date would stop to comfort a little kid.

“Clara is a pretty name,” said the young man. “Would you like a flower? It’s pink, just like your balloon.”

Clara was still crying inconsolably, unable to say that she would really like the rose. The young man said, jokingly, “uh-oh, I’m in trouble if girls don’t like these!” He tucked a pink rose into Clara’s backpack, and went on his way.

Shortly after the young man was out of earshot, Clara said “Thank you for my rose,” very quietly. She carried the rose in her hand the rest of the way home, finally waving at the young man, who was much too far away to see. A block later, we were almost home, and Clara was singing to her flower.

Somewhere in Ithaca, a lucky young lady is receiving a bouquet of eleven roses. I hope she asks why there is one missing!

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