Monday, May 29, 2017

The Dandelion's Complaint

The Dandelion’s Complaint
            By Valerie L. Egar

A bright yellow dandelion bloomed in a grassy meadow with hundreds of other dandelions. It was very unhappy, spending most of the day comparing itself to other flowers.
            “Lilies and lilacs have a beautiful scent, but we don’t have any fragrance at all,” it complained.
            “Brides carry bouquets of roses, gardenias, even simple daisies, but no one carries dandelions!”
            “Orchids are so exotic! Everyone loves them. Dandelions are so— common!”
            The dandelion’s discontent was contagious. Its complaints were so loud and so constant, soon all the dandelions in the meadow wanted to be something other than a dandelion. “I’m going to be a peony,” said one and puffed up as big as it could, but no matter how hard it tried, its petals didn’t turn pink. It still looked like a dandelion.
           Soon, instead of blooming and turning their blossoms into feathery puffs of seeds for the wind to carry, the dandelions stopped doing their dandelion jobs. One by one, all the gold spots in the meadow disappeared until the meadow was solid green.  Not one yellow flower, not one white puff of seeds showed in the meadow.
            “Dandelions, dandelions, where are you?” cried the bees. “We’re hungry and need your nectar.”
            “Huh,” said one dandelion. “You like clover better.”
            “Clover is nice,” said the bee, “but dandelions bloom from March until the frost in autumn and we need you.”
            Words rapidly spread among the dandelions and a few felt better.  Flowers appeared here and there.
            “Dandelions, dandelions, where are your seeds?” asked a little gold finch.  “I’m hungry!”

            “Find some thistle seed,” said the dandelions. “You like that.”
            “That’s true,” said the gold finch, “but I can only find that in the fall and I’m hungry now.  I need you.”
            The next day a few seed puffs opened to feed the finches.
            On a sunny afternoon, a family spread a blanket in the meadow and opened a picnic basket filled with sandwiches and cookies.  A little girl ran through the meadow. Soon she started to cry. “What’s the matter, honey?” her mother asked.
            “I wanted to picked you yellow flowers, but I can’t find any.”

The dandelions had forgotten how many times little hands picked their blooms as gifts for mothers. No fancy florist’s bouquet was ever treasured as much as a few dandelions.
            By the time the family had eaten, enough blooms popped up for the little girl to pick some flowers for her mother.
            Later that day, two friends walked in the meadow. “Let’s find a dandelion puff and make a wish,” one said.  The dandelions recalled that children and sometimes adults made wishes on their pretty puffs of seeds by blowing the seeds into the air. Wishing on a dandelion always brought smiles, but today, there were no seed puffs to be found. 

             The dandelions began to think they might have acted rashly.  Lilacs, though fragrant, bloomed a week or two and were gone until the next year. Roses didn’t bloom in the spring. Most flowers had a brief season. They didn’t.
            Bees depended on them and so did birds. Children loved to pick them and make wishes on their delicate puffs of seeds. They had an important job to do as dandelions. The dandelions decided to be themselves happily blooming, making seeds and sprinkling the meadow with gold, just like they always had.
            The dandelion that started the trouble disagreed. “Well, I don’t think any of us—“
            A sharp trowel dug the dandelion up.
           “See the long root?” the teacher said. “People in earlier times roasted the root to make a kind of coffee, and it is also an ingredient in root beer.”
            “My grandma makes salad from the leaves.”
            “Yes,” said the teacher, “Many people do. It’s one of the first greens to grow in the spring. People all over the world have used dandelions for food and medicine since ancient times.”
The teacher smiled.  “We’ll make this one into a salad and try it.”

Like the story? Please 'like' it, make a comment and share it with your Facebook friends. 
Copyright 2017 by Valerie L. Egar. May not be copied or reproduced with our permission from the author.
Published May 28, 2017, Journal Tribune Sunday (Biddeford. ME).


Monday, May 22, 2017

Prem and His Wondrous Melons

Prem and His Wondrous Melons
                        By Valerie L. Egar

            Once upon a time, a very long time ago, a young farmer, Prem, lived at the edge of a small village. He was a cheerful man, and well liked by the townspeople.
Prem loved the earth and all its creatures. He talked to seeds as he planted them and sang to the earth as he walked on it. When he planted grain, he always planted a share for the birds. He was grateful for the sun and the rain and particularly thankful for a little patch of earth on a hillside that was perfect for growing melons.
            “Oh, what a beautiful vine you will grow to be,” he said as he planted each seed. “The fruit growing on your vine will be sweet and plentiful. I am so happy to help you grow.”
            As the vines grew, Prem tended them with great care.  He loosened the hard soil around them and fertilized them.  When weeks went by without rain, he hauled barrels of water from the river with his horse cart and watered each plant. Not one weed slipped past his sharp eye.

 When the vines flowered and the melons began to form, he talked to each one.  “How sweet you will be!” he murmured.  “Oh, what a beauty you are!”
As the melons ripened in the summer sun, Prem took them to the village market and sold them. They were fragrant and promised to be delicious. He quickly sold them all.
Those who were fortunate enough to have bought one of Prem’s melons could speak of nothing else that week. They could not describe the marvelous taste with simple words, only with comparisons. “Rainbow-flavored,” one person said.  “Spiced with the light of the morning star,” said another.
 The following week, Prem found a line of people waiting for him when he arrived with his wagon of melons. Once again, he quickly sold them all.
Word of his incredible melons continued to spread. Soon, the King heard about them. He was a greedy man and decided if the melons were so delicious, he would have all of them for himself. He sent a letter to Prem telling him he would buy every melon Prem had.
Most farmers would be happy to sell their whole crop so easily, but Prem wasn’t that kind of man. He thought of the children who would delight at a sweet bite of melon and the old women who said even a small taste made them remember long ago summers. He thought of the families carrying one of his ripe melons on a picnic and anticipating its flavor as it was sliced. If the King bought them all, no one else would have any. He didn’t want to sell all of the melons to the King.
 That night, by the light of the moon, Prem worked until each melon bore the name of a person in the town, his knife delicately piercing the skin to write the name, but not so much to cut into the sweet flesh. On and on he wrote, until dawn came. The skin would scar as the melons continued to ripen, leaving the name.
In the morning, Prem was tired, but not so tired that he didn’t go to town and spread the word about what he had done. Each of the townspeople happily paid Prem for the melon ripening in his field with his or her name. Then, Prem wrote to the King. “Dearest King,” he said. “I am afraid I do not own any melons to sell you. Each of the people on the attached list owns one melon. Perhaps you will find someone willing to sell you theirs.”
            The King immediately sent a messenger with a bag of gold to buy whatever melons he could. A few people sold theirs to the King, which was to be expected, but when their neighbors talked about the flavor of the melons from that extraordinary crop for so many years that it became legend, they wondered if they hadn’t missed something very  special.

Thank you for reading the story. Please 'like' and share with your friends on Facebook.
 Copyright 2017 by Valerie L. Egar, may not be copied or reproduced without permission from the author.
Published May 21, 2017, Journal Tribune Sunday (Biddeford, ME).


Monday, May 15, 2017

Mother Fox and Her Kits

                                            Mother Fox and her Kits
                                                        By Valerie L. Egar

      Mother Fox lived in a den at the edge of a meadow with her four kits. They were handsome, with glossy red fur and white-tipped tails.  Mother Fox taught them every clever fox trick she knew: walking in a stream of water, so predators couldn’t track them and doubling back on their own tracks to confuse predators.
As the kits grew, they frolicked in the meadow, playing games. Hide and seek was a favorite. Tag was fun, too. Sometimes they played hunting games and tried to find a mole or mouse. At night, they slept cuddled next to Mother Fox in the warm den.
One day when the foxes and their mother roamed the woods, they saw two kits hiding in a briar patch.  Their fur was rumpled and they looked skinny. They hid when Mother Fox called them.

“Where’s your mother?”
The larger one poked his face out from under the briars and took one step forward.  “She went for food and didn’t come back.”
Mother Fox sighed.  She didn’t want to think what might have happened, but she knew the two kits weren’t old enough to take care of themselves. They looked  two or three weeks younger than her kits and needed food and a good cleaning up. “You’re hungry,” she said. “Come with us, I’ll feed you.”
“Mom,” growled her oldest, and she cuffed him lightly.
The new kits hadn’t eaten in days, and gobbled all the food Mother Fox gave them.  “I’m hungry,” said her second oldest. “I need more food.” 
Mother Fox shook her head. “You’ve had your share.”
After dinner, Mother Fox gave each of the kits a bath, licking each kit’s fur until it was shiny. The new kits took longer because they hadn’t been cleaned in days.
“Mommy, you spent more time with them than me!” said her youngest.
“They needed more time today,” said Mother Fox.
Her youngest ran to a mud puddle and jumped in.  “Now I need more time.” Mother Fox shook her head and cleaned him off for the second time.
Getting settled to go to sleep that night took forever. None of Mother Fox’s kits wanted the new kits to sleep close to their mother. Pushing and shoving, they finally tired themselves out and fell asleep.
The next day, Mother Fox noticed that when the kits played, the older ones were rough with the two younger kits. The little ones didn’t run as fast or jump as high, and she heard the older ones laugh at them. Mother Fox scolded her children.  “Huh,” said her third kit. “You love them better than us.”
 That night, Mother Fox gathered the kits around her so each one had a perfect cuddle spot. She stretched out as far as her long body would go with her tail straight out and the six kits lined up along her body with her tail and legs hugging all of them.
“Do you think we could count all the rocks in the stream?” she asked.
“What! That would take a long time,” said her oldest.
“It would,” she said.  “But, after we counted them, there wouldn’t be any more, right?”
“I suppose,” said the third kit. “But I hope that’s not what we’re doing tomorrow!”
Mother Fox laughed. “Don’t worry, we’re not. But when I love you, and you, and you, and you, and you, and you,” she said hugging each in turn, “it doesn’t mean I don’t have any love left for anyone else. Love isn’t like rocks in the stream.”
The kits thought about it. When Mother Fox divided a few sandwiches picnickers left behind, they each had a smaller portion because there were six of them, but maybe love wasn’t like that. If it were, it would soon be gone!
“With love, there’s always more to give,” said Mother Fox. “It’s not like food, or stones in the creek or even stars in the sky. There’s always more, and the more you give away, the more you have.”
“And mommies have a lot of love to give,” said her youngest.
“That’s right,” said Mother Fox. “They do.”

Like the story? Please comment and 'like' on Facebook!
Copyright 2017 by Valerie L. Egar. May not be copied or reproduced without permission from the author.
Published May 14, 2017 in Journal Tribune Sunday (Biddeford, ME).

Monday, May 8, 2017

Melissa's Magic Bracelet

Melissa’s Magic Bracelet
                                                By Valerie L. Egar

“Wow, a bracelet!” Melissa’s eyes glowed. She pulled a circle of turquoise beads from the small box and stretched it over her wrist. It fit perfectly.   
Of all the birthday presents she received, she liked the bracelet from Grandma and Grandpa best.  The beads were the same color as the eggs shells she found in spring at the bottom of trees, after baby robins hatched. The same color as the ocean water in Key West when her family vacationed there. It was her favorite color and she was happy Grandma and Grandpa knew that.
The next day Melissa found a four-leaf clover on the school playground. She picked it and ran to show her teacher, Mr. Wilkins.  He showed her how to press it in a book, so she could save it.
“Aren’t four-leaf clovers lucky?”
“People think that because they’re rare,” said Mr. Wilkins.
“I think I found it because my bracelet is magic,” said Melissa.
“I think you found it because you noticed it looked different from the others,” said Mr. Wilkins.
That evening, Melissa went to the Dairy Delight with her best friend Cary. She saw a dollar bill blowing across the parking lot and picked it up. “Look what I found!”
“Oh my,” said Cary’s mother.  She looked around to see if anyone was chasing after it, but no one was.
“I found the dollar, because I have a magic bracelet,” said Melissa.
“I think you found it because it blew this way,” said Cary’s mom. “I bet you found money before and you didn’t have the bracelet.”
“That’s true,” said Melissa. “But only pennies and a few coins. Never a dollar.”
More magic happened the next day at school. Though the class was supposed to have a math test, Mr. Wilkins was absent and hadn’t left the tests for the substitute. In gym, they got to play volleyball and Melissa’s team won. Lunch was pizza. Magic was everywhere!
“But Melissa,” Dad said, “the lunch menu was printed in the newspaper last week before you had the bracelet, and pizza was what was going to be served today.”
“But the cafeteria lady could have changed her mind and served Tuna Noodle Awful,” said Melissa.
“Has that every happened?”
“No, but there’s always a first time.”
Dad sighed.
Every time Melissa mentioned her bracelet was magic, somebody pointed out there was no such thing. Dad explained that the bracelet gave her confidence, and that’s why she got an ‘A’ on her science test. When she made cookies and they came from the oven soft and delicious—as they had never before— Mom said the magic was that cooking took practice and Melissa was getting better at it. Her bracelet had nothing to do with it.
Melissa’s Grandma visited on the weekend and they took a long walk along the river.  Melissa told her all that happened during the week. “I think my bracelet is magic, but everybody says there’s no such thing.”
“What do you think?” asked Grandma.
“I think it is, but I want to know what you think.”
Grandma smiled. “The way you see the world is magic, Melissa.  Was finding the four-leaf clover a thrill?”
“Yes! The dollar too.”
Grandma laughed. “Winning  volleyball, pizza for lunch, no math test— you saw magic in that, too.”
“It was a good day!”
“Yes. But to many people, it would just be another day. How you saw it made it magic.”
Melissa thought about that.
“You put the magic in the cookies you baked and in your science test.”
“So, it’s not the bracelet?”
 “A pretty bracelet always helps make magic,” Grandma said. “It’s a little like Superman’s cape.” Grandma pointed to the pretty turquoise bracelet she was wearing and winked.

Like the story? Please leave a comment and 'like' on the Facebook page.
Copyright 2017 by Valerie L. Egar. May not be copied or reproduced without permission from the author. 
Published May 7, 2017 in Journal Tribune Sunday (Biddeford, ME).