Thursday, August 24

Garden Appeal

There is a hollyhock plant that spontaneously sprang up as if I had carefully planted it right in an ideal spot of our normally emptyish planter earlier this spring. It appeared like a weed when it was first emerging, several times I was tempted to pull it out; but decided to wait and see.

To my great surprise and delight (feeling a little like Jack & the Bean Stalk), the mysterious growth proved to be a glorious, abundantly blooming pink hollyhock almost 6 feet tall. Having no green thumb whatsoever, I felt inner smugness that our front yard finally had a deserving ornamentation; and a truly faithful one at that! My hollyhock enthusiastically produced large, beautiful blooms day after day week after week. I thought she would soon tire of her labors and dreaded the day my garden 'perennial' finally gave up and died.

She certainly had enough reason to retire; the week it hit a stunning 118 degrees being a deadly example. Her position in the direct and western sun most of the day seemed particularly harrowing. Sustained by only a little watering, she thanked me with an ever more astonishing display of her precious blossoms.

Parenting is kind of hap-hazard, I think, like the sudden arrival of the hollyhock. Life-altering injuries sustained in one fateful instant to our beautiful girl have us still gasping for air over 2 years later - her post traumatic stress syndrome is a prickly, tenatious threat to her growth.

A more direct threat appeared recently in the form of a surprise internet introduction to her Myspace by a stranger who claimed to be a 'friend' of her older brother. With this quasi authenticity, his true motives were not immediately apparent. Our careful monitoring and repeated talks with her about vulnerability just didn't seem to soak in. The issue exploded one morning when I had her trapped in the car with me. I yelled and cried and pounded the steering wheel. Desperate for her to understand our desire to keep her safe, I prayed in my head for something magical to do or say that would break through her resentment.

Two things happened: pulling into a Costco parking spot, the spirit whispered, "Look to the right."
A young mother was tightly holding the hands of her 2 little boys before crossing the street. I jumped on this maternal instinct as an inspired object lesson. I told my daughter if I could go back in time, so she could be a tiny little girl again - who needed me to hold her hand so I knew I could keep her 100% safe, I would do it. Even if it meant that fate dictated one day she would again be seated at a bus stop as a high-speed police chase rocketed toward her - I would do it all again.

Two thick tears slid down her cheeks. My voice was almost gone. I had no feeling in my finger tips. We went into the store.

45 minutes later we pulled into our driveway at home. Greeting us was the valiant but battered hollyhock. Her tall, arching stalk was dry and dead. Her base leaves were wilted and weathered. Yet, perched cheerfully on the very end of a small, previously unnoticed secondary stalk, was a fresh flower.

"See that hollyhock right there?" I said, fresh tears already choking my words. "That plant has endured an entire Phoenix summer - it's nearly dead. But look how it was still willing to focus its waning energy to produce that amazing flower...that is what I wish for you. There can be great beauty in spite of scars, and keeping you safe is my heart's desire."

The deleated Myspace was history, and my daughter did not seem to miss its false appeal. She began to talk to her friends on the phone instead. Her first week of school has been a good one. Last night she kissed me on the forehead, and went to bed.