Stop, thief!

Three Saturdays ago, Megan was on her way out of the house to do hair at a wedding. In the bottom left-hand corner of our front yard a patch of flowers had come into full bloom. One tall, canary yellow iris caught Megan’s attention.

“Baby, come look at this flower!”

It came up to my hip. It was a reminder that some of the most beautiful things that come into our lives have nothing to do with our wills or plans.

We appreciated the bloom more because on three successive occasions someone had come in the middle of the night and plucked our tulips: red, yellow, purple, and, my favorite, a deep, rosy orange. At first, I thought it might be deer, but we live too close to downtown and the bare stems weren’t munched-looking. The breaks were clean, as though someone had even had the foresight to bring shears.

Who were these people, these filchers of flora? These burglars of blooms? I wanted someone to come steal the small beauties out their lives and teach them some manners.

I don’t know if that’s loving my enemies or not.

scene of the crime

The Scene of the Crime

Megan left, and perhaps thirty minutes later, I was in my boxers in the den reading a book. The shades were down, but saw movement through a crack out the window out of the corner of my eye.

A girl wearing a bicycle helmet had two hands around the stalk of that yellow iris. She gave it a good yank, and it snapped off a few inches below the petals.

A little girl? That’s not what I was expecting.

I considered for a second going to put pants on, but I knew I’d miss my opportunity.

If she had taken her time, I would have given her the benefit of the doubt. But I could tell she knew that she was doing something wrong because she was in a hurry. By the time I opened the front door, she was back on the rod pedaling away furiously.

“Hey!” I said.

She stopped and looked over her shoulder at me.

“Would you please not pick the flowers out of our yard! Thank you.”

She ducked her head into her shoulders in embarrassment, said, “Okay,” in a shaky voice, and rode around the bend as fast as her short legs could pump.

She dropped the iris on the asphalt.

I went back inside, put on some jeans, and retrieved the flower.

Putting it in a vase in the kitchen, I wondered if I’d missed an opportunity.

Should I have asked if she liked flowers, which was obvious, and invited her to come back and spend time with Megan who would tell her more about them?

If this eight or nine-year-old girl was the same person who plucked all our tulips, she clearly didn’t have the kind of parents who would ask, “Where did you get that?” and say, “Don’t pick flowers out of people’s yards unless you ask first.” That’s what my parents would have done.

Should we have reached out to that little girl who is now probably terrified of me? Have I become the neighborhood curmudgeon?

Should I have said or done something different? What was the best way to handle that situation?

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