The Flower Walk

Through the eyes of a six-year-old, the world is beautiful, fascinating and wonderfully fragrant

By Michael M. Barrick

ALUM BRIDGE, W.Va. – On a table calendar that belonged to my folks before they passed, there are brief, positive statements to read as one starts the day. Today’s is “A smile happens in a flash, but the memory of it can last a lifetime.” If that is true – and I believe it is – then I have many lifetimes of memories just from one short weekend with our granddaughter, Atleigh.

I learned from her, that from the perspective of a six-year-old, the world is beautiful, fascinating and wonderfully fragrant.

A field of flowers in a quiet West Virginia valley

A field of flowers in a quiet West Virginia valley

She was in, along with other family members, visiting over the holiday weekend. They arrived on Friday evening about supper time. With some neighbors on vacation, I was making evening trips to their farm to check on the chickens. I figured Atleigh would get a kick out of that, so I asked her if she wanted to tag along. She was in the car for the two-mile drive over the “bumpy” (gravel) road before I could change my shoes.

She chattered non-stop for the 10-minute ride, asking me all sorts of questions about the mist hanging in the hills from the rain that had quit just minutes before she arrived, about what kind of animals lived in the woods, and some other things that were spit out so rapidly that I still don’t know what she said.

I didn’t need to. Her eyes said it all.

I had barely stopped the car before she bounded out of it and ran towards the chickens roaming around the yard. Laughing at their gait, her eyes were wide and as full of joy as was her belly laugh. Since other family members have chickens, she was soon telling me what I needed to do. I, of course, did exactly as I was told.

Later, as we meandered around the farm, checking things, she noticed the nearby field of flowers that covers much of the valley floor in the hollow where we live. Immediately, she asked – exclaimed – “Can we go on a flower walkl!?”

Several deer, including a fawn, graze in a field in a West Virginia hollow

Several deer, including a fawn, graze in a field in a West Virginia hollow

I promised that we would, but pointed out it would have to wait until the next day, as we needed to get back and have supper. In a startling display of delayed gratification, she agreed to wait a day. Her patience was rewarded, for the time we would have spent walking through the field was instead filled with one deer sighting after another. By the time we had finished our short drive back, this time taking 20 minutes so that we could look for and count the deer, Atleigh had seen 20 deer, including five fawn.

After pointing out the passenger window at several just before we reached the farm where we are living, she turned to me, eyes as wide and as bright as they could possibly be and held up her hand with her fingers spread wide, saying, “Five! We saw five fawn and 20 deers!” As soon as we parked, she hopped out, ran into the house and announced our discoveries. Her smile not only filled the room, it was instantly contagious, and all were smiling, even though we were all exhausted – some from a day of moving, others from a long drive.

The next morning, before we “officially” began our flower walk, Atleigh waited – not too patiently – for me to finish my coffee. While waiting, she walked out through the front yard and went directly to the lavender. It drew her in like a magnet. She demanded that everybody smell it. With genuine, appreciative innocence, she blurted out, “It is so beautiful!” Again, her eyes danced.

The Flower Walk had begun. We each had our own vase, though I soon discovered that my job was to pick the flowers that she chose. She arranged them. With each addition, she would hold the vase up to me and ask, “Isn’t it beautiful?” She repeatedly insisted that I smell her latest selection. In time, after a very leisurely and meandering stroll, both vases were filled; we returned to the farm house and put them in water.

Atleigh returned home yesterday. This morning, I noticed that the flowers we had picked have faded. What has not faded, though, is the memory of those dancing, sparkling eyes – that smile full of wonder and sheer joy. How sweet our memories are, that we can take a moment – a flash of a smile – and live off of it forever.

I can’t wait for our next adventure. I have plenty of room for more memories, at least once I delete some baseball statistics from the 1960s.

© The Appalachian Preservation Project, 2015. The Appalachian Chronicle is a publication of the Appalachian Preservation Project. If you find this writing of value, we hope that you will consider support our independent work by becoming a member of the Appalachian Preservation Project. You can learn more here. By doing so, you will be supporting not only this website, but also our other outreaches, programs and partnerships. Learn more.

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