“Lookit it’s the roses!” Isabella jumped up and down. I smiled as we walked along the winding pathway.
“There they are,” I said. I gestured a hand towards the other side of the path, which was filled with containers of carnations. “And there are the carnations.” Isabella turned to look at the red and yellow carnations. She stared at the rose for a moment then protruded her lips into a deep frown.
“Those are boring,” she announced. Her long blonde hair blew in the wind.
“Okay, okay.” I hid a giggle and kept walking. She certainly was a miracle four year old – already deciding her favorite flowers! Isabella ran a few feet ahead. I could still see her in the distance. Obviously I was supposed to follow her, but I lagged behind for a moment and watched her run.
My aunt, uncle, and their three daughters – Isabella and her two older sisters – had come to visit for the weekend. My parents were thrilled, but I wasn’t. Isabella was almost eight years younger than I was, and her two older sisters were seniors in high school and seemed disinterested in talking to a thirteen-year-old.
The rose gardens, at least, were interesting with just Isabella. Now I couldn’t see her in the distance. I retied my tennis shoe in a hurry and then ran up to chase her. Isabella had simply circled around. She’d passed the carnations and the roses, turned around, and walked back to the roses.
“You like the roses, don’t you?” I asked.
She looked up. Her face was buried in the roses as she sniffed the fragrance. “Yeah.” Isabella smiled. “They smell good.”
“But they’re prickly, too,” I said. I extended a finger and slowly pointed towards the thorns. The rose’s stem was covered in small, short thorns. If my finger grew any closer to the stem, my finger would prick against the thorn and create a wound.
“Like people,” Isabelle said. She ran her hands along the rose, gently feeling the curves and bends in each petal. “Sometimes people are nice and sometimes they’re mean.”
I stared at her in shock. “Yes, they are.” She was so smart it was beginning to scare me. She was right.
We all had our petals and our thorns. I had played “roses and thorns” at camp last summer, and while that game had been based on our experiences, it was the same idea. We all had flaws and good things about ourselves, just like roses. Roses were sweet and beautiful and gave off a wonderful fragrance, but at the same time the thorns along their stems were pointy and dangerous.
Isabella beamed. “Yay, I’m right!”
I laughed. “You are.” She smiled and sniffed the rose.
“It smells good,” Isabella announced.
“It does.” I leaned over and exhaled into the petals. The sweet, almost syrupy fragrance drifted through her nose.
“And it has your name!” Isabella grinned.
I felt my smile diminish. “Rose.” I’d heard every flower joke under the sun from my classmates. But Isabella seemed happy about the coincidence, unlike the angry taunts of my classmates and their constant cries for me to “grow a stem”.
“We should pick a rose, Rose,” Isabella said. “That way you could have a rose and it would be funny.”
“It would be funny.” I pictured hanging the rose in a vase in my bedroom. The poor flower would hang on, slowly dying in the vase of dirty water. It would be a sad ending for something so pretty. I shook off the thought and returned my attention to Isabella. “I’m sorry, but we can’t.”
Her expression returned to its exaggerated pout.
“Because it’s the rose gardens,” I said, gesturing to the flowers all around us, “and if we take the rose than other people won’t get to see how pretty the roses are.”
“Aww, darn it,” Isabella said.
“I know.” I leaned over and gave her a small hug. “Should we have lunch?” Isabella nodded soundlessly. I grabbed the picnic basket that my mother had prepared. She had put the lunch in a wicker basket and lain a blanket across the basket so the food would be preserved. I pulled the blanket off and opened the basket to reveal the meal: sandwiches, chips, and cookies.
Isabella grabbed the cookies first but I swatted the bag away from her. We sat and ate our sandwiches, silent in contemplation. I wondered what Isabella was thinking about. My eyes darted over to her. She sat still and silent with her legs crossed in a lotus position. Her eyes were squeezed shut. My cousin seemed serene, eating her sandwich and thinking.
I shook my head in both pride and disbelief. People were roses and thorns. Isabella was definitely a rose.
I finished my sandwich and set the uneaten crusts aside. Isabella finished hers and set the remains beside my crusts. “Let’s go,” I said simply. Isabella nodded. I reached into my pocket and pulled out my camera.
This would be a good place to snap shots. Isabella jumped up, giggling. I grinned, feeling her infectious energy.
We walked along the path, smiling at each other. Every few minutes we would stop and stare at the flowers. The flowers were a colorful rainbow, it seemed: purple and blue and red and orange and yellow and green and every color nature had ever created.
Isabella paused in front of some lily of the valleys and said, “What’s your favorite flower?” I stopped to think. I wasn’t a botanist, after all.
“Carnations. What’s your favorite?”
“I already answered!” Isabella giggled. “Roses.”
I smiled. This had turned out to be the perfect day. I certainly would remember this day in the future. But would Isabella? She was four years old. She’d grow up and gain new experiences. This day might fall out of her mind, pushed back for newer memories.
I grabbed my camera and turned it to the video function. My hand shook slightly as the video turned on. A small box appeared in the corner of the camera screen, showing the seconds the video had been recording.
“Isabella,” I said.
“Yes?” She turned around.
“Can you say what your favorite flower is again?” I positioned the camera towards her. Isabella’s face seemed larger on screen; I could see every one of her freckles.
“Why do I have to say it again?” Isabella said. “I already said it twice.”
“Just say it again,” I said.
“Okay.” Isabella beamed and said proudly, “My favorite flower is a rose. Like my cousin Rose.”
“Perfect,” I said, switching the video camera off with one click. There. Now we had posterity. When I got home I would ask my mother to record the disk onto some kind of flash drive or blank CD. That way we could watch the video over and over again. My gaze drifted down to my watch.
Three thirty. My aunt expected us home in ten minutes.
“Isabella, we need to go,” I told her.
“Okay, okay.” She sighed dramatically. “But I wanna stay!”
“I’m sorry, but we really have to go. Your mommy needs you to come back to our house.”
Isabella seemed to accept this explanation and nodded. I grabbed the picnic basket and we started to walk towards home.
Another question popped into my mind. Would Isabella remember me? I was so much older than her. By the time she was old enough, I’d probably be in high school or even college. A sad frown crossed my face. I wanted to spend more time with her. She was cute and adorable and funny.
“Rose,” Isabella said.
“Yes?” I asked
“My favorite flower is a rose.”
“But…” Isabella stretched the word out. “My favorite person is you.”
“Yeah. I like both roses.”
And then I knew she would remember both roses: the rose garden and me, her cousin Rose.