by Katherine E. Lockwood
New York, USA
My two-year-old daughter and I often get smiles from strangers as we walk through town with Clara riding in her backpack, singing and swinging her feet.
I felt extra grateful for my sunny little girl on one walk at the end of April, 2006. Just three days before she woke up from her nap with a fever of 106 degrees. We spent a traumatic evening in the emergency room. Any parent or child is frightened by such an experience. So it was a great feeling that Clara was so happy that day.
We were heading home from a local grocery store, which wisely gives out free balloons to children. Clara always looks forward to getting a balloon there. 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, when POP! There went the balloon.
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 experienced this minor trauma of childhood, and she was inconsolable.
A college-aged young man, about 21, with light brown hair, 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. He 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, probably hurrying home to get ready for a date, would stop to comfort a little child.
“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 too far away to hear, Clara said “Thank you for my rose,” in a quiet voice. 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, 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 one is missing!