Saturday, May 24, 2014
The Happiness of Lady Chang
It begins with Maggie's hardest year in grade school. The teacher was not adept at creating community spirit, so chaos prevailed. Whenever I volunteered to help with a classroom project, Maggie ran to me as I arrived and held on for all she was worth.
Often when I picked her up at dismissal, she was exhausted, quiet, worried after her tumultuous day at the "zoo." I understood.
Sometimes retail therapy seemed like the best medicine. She rode in the shopping cart's child seat, her hand over mine, as we looked at towels and mirrors and sandbox toys.
One day at the sale table, she pointed to a pile of garden trinkets. "Oh, Mama, look at her. She's so sad," she said, pulling a scuffed white wooden Asian statue from the mix. I agreed. We talked about her perilous journey from China to North Carolina. We wondered how it felt to be beautiful but overlooked among the chintzy plastic lawn accessories. We imagined what would make her happy.
Marked for Final Clearance at $3.99, we were her last chance. We shuddered to think where she'd be sent next. We had to take her home.
She was lovely in our yard, placed beneath a pink dogwood. Maggie called her Lady Chang. I don't know why. The tree's petals fell around her, just as that horribly challenging school year was ending. Maggie insisted she looked happy for the first time. I could see the difference, too.
When we moved to Minnesota, Maggie started middle school, not an easy thing. We brought Lady Chang with us. She's had a hard time in the front garden.
We don't have a pink dogwood tree. Squirrels and rabbits have eaten the flowers we planted beside her. She has been covered by snow for seven months every year. Happiness has been elusive.
Maggie moved on to high school. Boys can be rude. Girls can be mean. Teachers can be thoughtless. She didn't always get the part she wanted in the play.
In desperation, I planted a bleeding heart in the garden last summer. A heat wave took its toll, despite my watering efforts.
Sometimes all a mother can do is wait and hope through a bitter season.
But this spring has been good.
The bleeding heart bloomed.
Maggie attended the prom.
I've never seen Lady Chang look happier.
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