The neighbors had been diligently preening, pruning, and pampering their small rose garden, which lay along side our driveway.
Elizabeth was 4 years old. She was out front, enjoying the sunshine and twirling around. She was amazed with how the hem of her skirt would fly out, away from her legs. She’d laugh and twirl some more, oblivious to her surroundings. Until, suddenly she noticed, for the first time, the white roses that were blooming just a few feet from her. She stopped. Stared. And walked toward them. She sniffed. She touched. Then she picked one of those prize winning flowers.
Mommy, here, this is for you, she squealed as she ran onto the front porch.
Where did you get such a lovely flower? I asked her.
Over there, she pointed towards the edge of our drive.
Yikes! I screamed inside my head.
Elizabeth held my hand, happily walking me over to her find. And there stood our neighbor; a tall, burly man, scratching his head, looking at the roses with a scowl on his face. Without much thought I squeezed Elizabeth’s hand a bit too tight. Ouch! she growled.
After many apologizes from me, and a confused look on Elizabeth’s face, we slowly walked back into the house. I explained to her, as best as I could explain to a four year old, that what she did was inappropriate, that she can’t just take things that didn’t belong to her. She seemed to understand, and confirmed as much when she returned a short time later with a beautiful picture she had drawn of the rose garden, emphasizing the white rose she had plucked. I walked with her to the neighbor’s front door. She knocked hard, barely making a sound, but enough that the door opened wide.
Sorry, she told the man.
All I could do was smile politely, hoping the colorful picture would mean as much to him as his fragrant rose.