My parents were pretty social when my brother and I were little. We often found ourselves at the mercy of some strange lady of a Friday or Saturday evening, having been tucked into bed by mom or dad before they left. But the best times were when they’d let us spend the night at our grandparents’ house. Lavishly doted on, read to for hours, innumerable card games of “Go Fish” or “Old Maid”. These nights were the best. There were rules of course, and bedtimes, but the thing of it was we simply felt adored. Not spoiled. Just loved, unrestrained.
I do not know how much furniture, books or other items Nana and Papa rid themselves of when they moved to Charlotte from New York to be near us. They moved into a tiny brick cottage: a living room, small kitchen, 2 bedrooms and a bathroom. There must have been cases of books, arm chairs, bureaus and other things that were given away or simply left when they moved from their apartment near Columbia University, but they did still have a few books, adult and some children’s, that my brother and I enjoyed when visiting them.
So when both my brother and I stayed there we shared a bedroom, but the most special times were when Jon was at basketball camp or at a friends’ house and I got our grandparents all to myself. There was one book which both my brother and I loved, a very small book of a “parable in pictures” (I suppose the first graphic novel) as the author himself, James Thurber, called it. The Last Flower, originally published in 1939 and so named because as the book opens during World War XII there is massive and unimaginable destruction. Afterward the people who were left had no idea what to do, how to begin again. A young girl happens upon what may be the last flower on the earth and it is dying. She tells people about it, no one listens except one boy. So they nurture this flower until it lives again, the earth flourishes and love returns to the world. Pretty soon there are merchants, and communities, and of course, soldiers. So the story cycles again to discontent. But what remains: a boy, a girl and one flower.
Somehow this little book of new beginnings and the truth of human nature told so simply and humbly attracted my brother and me. Today my rescue dog Lily and I were walking where the new development of homes has cleared many pines, scrub oaks and wild blueberry bushes. As we walked down a remaining trail I saw a small cluster of ovate, white flowers.
A tiny wild blueberry bush.