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The Perfect Gift

S PRING had come late to Eden Valley. Not a rose was blooming; not one gave promise of unfolding for Mother's Day.

"But I must have roses for Mother this year!" It was ten-year-old Tony who spoke, as he examined bud after bud and found each one so tightly curled that he knew it would be useless to try to force any into blooming as he had done a year ago.

A smile erased the anxious expression on his face as he remembered his mother exclaiming delightedly, "Roses for my day! I was sure I would be disappointed this year, for no buds were opening this morning. How ever did you do it, Tony? And my favorite roses too--Grus on Teplitz and Madam Butterfly!"

A warm feeling enveloped Tony as he recalled telling his mother how two days before he had cut the buds just beginning to loosen, and had kept their stems in warm water until they had opened enough to show their beauty. How he loved to recall her next words, "Thank you, my dear. You are a good boy, Tony, and I love you very much." She had kissed him then and continued, "Roses are the perfect gift for a mother on her day."

He could still feel her arms about him now as he remembered her illness a short time later, an illness which had lasted for months. He must give her the roses she loved this year; but how could he do so with Sunday but three days away?

Again he carefully examined every bud, but it was an unrewarding task. Tears threatened to fall, but he hastily wiped them away with his sleeve as he said thoughtfully, "I must give her the perfect gift."

Tony left the rose garden and sat on the porch steps in the late afternoon sunshine to think his problem through. He decided not to ask his father for extra money to buy roses from the florist, knowing he had all he could do to pay the bills caused by his mother's illness. There were no lawns to cut, for the weather had been too cold for the grass to grow; nor were there yards to rake as the task had been accomplished on clean-up day. What should he do?

"It doesn't look as if any of our roses will be blooming for Mother this year, does it, Son?" It was his father who spoke. He had come upon Tony and, seeing the worried look in his eyes, had divined the reason.

Tony shook his head, but did not answer lest his tears overflow.

"H ERE'S a dollar, Son. I think perhaps it will buy three blooms. I'd give more if I could. We must not forget Mother on her day, especially this year." He was unaware he was repeating almost the very words Tony had used.

His tears brimming over now, Tony smiled in relief and gratitude and said, "Thanks, Dad! I'll pay it back out of my allowance."

"No, Son, you see I want Mother to have the flowers she loves as much as you do. And, besides, you've earned it by your added thoughtfulness since she became ill."

Tony skipped to the gate. He hurried to the flower shop, for it would soon be closing time.

The owner, who knew him well, asked kindly, "What can I do for you, Tony boy?"

"I'd like to get a dollar's worth of roses, red and white ones, if you have them."

"And what lovely lady's name shall I put on the card this year?"

Very simply Tony answered, "Just write, 'To Mother from Tony.'"  He paused a moment then continued, "and be sure to write, 'I love you, Mother.' "

"That I will my boy! That I will!" he said huskily, then added, "would you like me to keep them here for you till morning so they will be nice and fresh? You can come as early as you like."

Tony gave him the dollar as he answered, "Oh, yes, that will be the best way. I'll be here very early to get them."

The next morning a half hour before sunrise, Tony arose and dressed quietly, tiptoed past his parent's room, went outside and, in his eagerness, ran almost all the way to the florist's. The kindly proprietor smiled to see the anticipation in his eyes, and pointed to a lovely bouquet of roses in a container covered with silvery-green foil.

Tony gasped as he saw them. "Those are not mine, are they? My dollar would only buy about three, Dad said, and there are," he paused as he counted, "nine! five red and four white ones, with pale yellow and pink centers just like our Madam Butterflies she loves. Are you sure these are mine?"

"Yes, my boy. I want you to give them to your mother. I've seen the red and white ones in her garden so I thought she would like these. And Tony boy, if ever your roses don't bloom in time for Mother's Day, come to me and I will give you some to present to your mother." Before Tony could speak, he continued, "There will always be deliveries to make the day before Mother's Day, and you could help me to pay for your roses if you would feel better doing so. Just remember, my boy, and God bless you."

Tony's eyes were shining as his lips spoke his gratitude. Taking his precious roses, he left the shop. When he came to the little white gate of his home, he did not stop, but walked on by, and went on and on to the outskirts of town.

When he reached his destination and entered the gates, the silent beauty of the place made him feel a deep peace. Just as the rising sun flooded the earth with light, he placed his roses--the perfect gift--on his mother's grave.


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