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For the Love of a Plant

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One day I was sitting in my living room, gazing out of the window at the house across the street. It was an old, grimy, gray, run-down shack with broken shutters and cracked windows. A mossy, rotten wooden door was clinging to the frame for dear life. The cramped hut had a weed-filled, rocky yard in front of it, which was split by a rough, uneven dirt path. There was one lone and seemingly lifeless tree in a corner of the lawn, out of place, small, and thin. A poor widow lived in the hovel with her nine children. No one knew who she was, only that she never came out. The children would come out and play, but would immediately hide if someone passed by.
As I looked at the house, one of these children, a little, dirty, scraggly girl, opened the door and peered around, as if to make sure that no one was watching. When she saw that the street was clear, she threw open the door and raced to the half-dead sapling. Even from where I was, I could see fear in her movements.
When she reached the tree, she drew a wide circle around the tree in the dirt. Then she started to dig around the circle with her hands, digging at an angle toward the tree. All I could see at first was dirt and dust flying everywhere, then it settled and the little girl stood up. She lifted up the plant, stem, roots, dirt and all, and scampered across the street. She paused in front of my home to peer around again and, apparently satisfied, tiptoed across my own grassy lawn to the rock garden that was centered in the middle between my house and the street. I was puzzled about what she did next. She stepped carefully around my plants to a clear space I had been meaning for roses. Then she dug a shallow hole, placed the young tree crookedly inside the hole, and stood back. She leaned forward to straighten it, took one last look at it, and scampered back across the street.
Later that day I went outside and looked at the miserable plant. Sure enough, it was a gray, half-dead sapling that badly needed water. I could have pulled it out right there and then, but I was curious about the little girl’s actions and decided to keep the plant there.
Then, a couple of days later, I understood why the tree had ended up in my garden.
That morning I woke up to hear a truck motor running in front of my house. I went to my window and stared down at the bustling sight that met my eyes. The widow and her nine children were standing on the street, watching as workers from the truck demolished and ripped apart the old house. I gazed at the whole confusing mess until a van came and took the widow and children away. The last thing I remember seeing was the young girl who had planted the tree in my garden. She was staring fixedly at the small sapling, which I had recently watered. And even as the van drove away, I could see her small face pressed against the window, watching the plant.
Years after, I am sitting in my living room, gazing out of the window at the tree. It is no longer small and gray. In fact, it has grown to be a beautiful plant. It is for the first time blooming, delicate pink flowers that float to the ground when the wind blows. I am remembering the little ragged girl that had planted it, when a young woman runs down the street and stops in front of my house. As I follow her gaze to the tree, I notice that she has a strange look on her face and is staring fixedly at the plant. In that moment I realize one thing. The eyes that were staring at the blooming tree are the same ones years ago that had watched the thin, gray sapling until it was out of sight.
I am amazed that she had cared so much about an ugly gray sapling. It could have easily stayed that way all its life. Yet she had seen something more than just a half-dead tree, the beauty in the rough. So she had dug it up and replanted it right here in my yard, and all for the love of a plant.



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