“Goldenrod”

There was a large statue of Mary, the Blessed Mother, in the main hallway, and smaller statues of Mary in all the classrooms.  It was the custom to keep offerings of fresh flowers in front of these shrines.  Not from the florist, but from people’s gardens.

Early in my second-grade career, I wanted to partake in this tribute.  As I waited at the school bus stop one day, I saw my chance.  There was an empty lot nearby that was abloom with what I thought were the most marvelous flowers.  My family having recently moved to this suburb from the city, I had no garden and had never seen flowers growing in such abandon — tiny, brilliant yellow, arrayed up-and-down on long bristly stems, looking like brooms that a witch in a fairy tale might use.  Witches held no negative meaning for me, so I meant no disrespect to Mary.  I now know such brooms are called “besoms”. 

Somehow — I wouldn’t have had scissors nor a knife — I pulled together an armload of flowers and hauled it onto the bus.  The theatrical shrieks from the other students began almost immediately.  Seems that my beautiful flowers were called “goldenrod” and no one liked them because they made you sneeze.  

In my mind’s eye, I see little-girl me, watching my teacher stick my offering — which had already begun to wilt — into a large vase.  She scurried out to the hallway statue and, over her shoulder, told me not to bring wildflowers to school anymore.