By Stephanie Cavanaugh
WHEN BABY WAS a baby, we’d read books before bed. Books carefully chosen to develop and enhance her sweet nature.
Roald Dahl’s The Witches— in which a witch plots to get rid of children—made her giggle. Everything by Roald Dahl made her giggle. Me too.
And then there was The Rose in My Garden,* by Arnold Lobel, charmingly illustrated by his (then) wife Anita Lobel. It was written in 1984, the year Baby was born, and read night after night.
A garden grows with a page for each flower and a drawing on the facing page as each new flower is added. It grows like this:
This is the rose in my garden.
This is the bee that sleeps on the rose in my garden.
These are the hollyhocks, high above the ground, . . . marigolds orange and round . . .
And so forth, adding zinnias in a row, daisies white as snow, tulips sturdy and tall, and sunflowers tallest of all.
Then comes a little mouse who’s pounced on by a cat, and the flowers shake and shudder and the bee awakens.
When my mind’s eye sees a garden, it is this one. A jumble of flowers. Such color, leafy texture, and scent.
I suspect this is the garden Baby sees too, judging by the near-haphazard growth of her borders. It’s pretty, I want it, I know how she thinks. After all, I made her. **
We should design a family crest.
She has sun spots and shade spots in her spacious suburban setting. I have shade and more shade in my little patch—though I can walk to the coffee shop, a benefit to city living.
Knowing I’m doomed to failure, I marched defiantly to the garden center last Sunday and bought a hollyhock. My first. It has fat buds showing pink. I found a spot by the pond that gets a sunbeam for an hour or so each day around noon, said, Stand up straight, and lashed it to a stake. Maybe, maybe I’ll see a bloom . . .
Even while the 30-year-old peony spat out one bud that fizzled before it opened . . .
And an equally old climbing Don Juan rose, gifted me with three measly, though heavenly smelling, flowers this year.
Ah, life in the shade. The ferns are doing very well.
So much for the rose in my garden.
*The Rose in My Garden, by Arnold Lobel, illustrated by Anna Lobel. Copyright © 1984. Published by Scholastic Inc.
*I did have a little help. Thank you, Prince!