Aly strolled toward the garden, where Miss Strawbridge, the land-lady, knelt planting pansies. Last week, Aly and her parents had moved into the house trailer in Miss Strawbridge’s backyard.
Aly watched silently until the old woman looked up and asked, “Why the long face, Aly?”
“There aren’t any kids around here to play with,” said Aly. “I don’t have anything to do.”
Miss Strawbridge’s blue eyes twinkled. “You sound just like a girl who used to live here.”
“Her name is Rachel,” said Miss Strawbridge. “Too bad you two young girls couldn’t have lived here at the same time. She always complained that she didn’t have anyone to play with.”Q1
“What did Rachel do when she was bored?” asked Aly.
“She planted a flower garden by the shed in the backyard,” answered Miss Strawbridge.
Aly looked over toward the weathered shed. Weeds sprouted around its base. “Could I plant a flower garden?”
Miss Strawbridge handed Aly a trowel and held out a box of pansies. She winked. “This will get you started.”
“Thanks,” said Aly.
For the rest of the afternoon, Aly pulled the weeds, dug, and planted. It was hard work, but when she stepped back and admired the patch of blue and yellow pansies, she smiled. Still, it was too bad that Rachel wasn’t there to share it.Q2
The next day, Aly watered her pansies, then wondered what else she could do. She strolled across the yard to the garden, where Miss Strawbridge sat reading. She stood silently until the old woman looked up.
“What else did Rachel do when she was bored?” asked Aly.
“She wrote poetry in her flower garden,” Miss Strawbridge answered. “One of her poems even won a prize in a contest at school.”
Aly squinted in the sunshine, thinking about how good it would feel to win a prize. “But I don’t know how to write poems,” she said.
Miss Strawbridge winked. “The best way to learn how to write poetry is to read poetry.” She handed Aly her book.
“Thanks,” said Aly.
Aly lay on her stomach in the cool grass next to her pansies and read Miss Strawbridge’s book of poetry. After a while, she got some paper and a pencil from the trailer and scribbled and erased, scribbled and erased. In the end she had a poem that might not be a prizewinner but sounded good enough to make her smile. Still, it was too bad that Rachel wasn’t there. They could have read their poems to each other.Q3
The next day, Aly watered her flowers and wrote a new poem, then wondered what else she could do. She strolled across the yard and knocked on Miss Strawbridge’s door.
“What else did Rachel do when she was bored?” asked Aly when Miss Strawbridge opened the door.
“She played in the old shed and pretended it was her house,” answered Miss Strawbridge. “She kept some plates and cups on a shelf, and she’d eat lunch out there.”
Aly glanced back at the shed and then at Miss Strawbridge. “Am I allowed to play in the shed?”
Miss Strawbridge winked. “There’s nothing in the shed that you can hurt or that can hurt you.” She took a key off a hook next to the door and handed it to Aly.
“Thanks!” said Aly.
She raced back to the shed and jiggled the key in the rusty padlock. When she swung the creaky door open, she saw that the shed was empty except for a set of old wooden kitchen chairs stacked in the corner and a few boxes resting on the dusty shelves. This would be a perfect clubhouse. Still, it was too bad that Rachel wasn’t there to play in it with her.
Maybe Rachel left her plates and cups in one of these boxes, Aly thought. Miss Strawbridge said that there isn’t anything I could hurt in here, so she probably wouldn’t mind if I peeked inside.
Aly opened a box and sneezed as a cloud of dust drifted into her face. She pulled out wads of crumpled yellowed newspaper that were covering a bunch of knickknacks. A tarnished knick-knack caught her eye. It was a trophy with an inscription — First Place in Poetry. Rachel Strawbridge. 1937.Q4
Aly stared at the trophy. Slowly, a smile spread across her face.
She ran back to the trailer and slapped two peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches together. She grabbed two apples and two juice boxes and carried everything across the yard to the door of Miss Strawbridge’s house.
When Miss Strawbridge opened the door, Aly said, “I wondered if Rachel would like to have lunch in the shed with me and then write poetry in my flower garden.”
Miss Strawbridge winked. “I think Rachel would like that very much.” And they strolled across the yard together.Q5
Copyright © Highlights for Children, Inc., Columbus, Ohio. All rights reserved.
- Weather(verb): to wear away by long exposure to the air
- Stroll(verb): to walk in a relaxed way
It's the birthday of the avant-garde composer Igor Stravinsky (1882), born in Oranienbaum, near St. Petersburg, Russia. His first major success as a composer was a ballet based on a Russian folk tale, called The Firebird (1909). It was wildly popular, and he traveled all over Europe to conduct it. He then got an idea for a ballet about a pagan ritual in which a virgin would be sacrificed to the gods of spring by dancing herself to death. Stravinsky composed the piece on a piano in a rented cottage, and a boy working outside his window kept shouting up at him that the chords were all wrong. When Stravinsky played part of the piece for director of the theater where it would be performed, the director asked, "How much longer will it go on like that?" Stravinsky replied, "To the end, my dear." He titled the piece The Rite of Spring. At its premiere in 1913 in Paris, the audience broke out into a riot when the music and dancing turned harsh and dissonant. The police came to calm the chaos, and Stravinsky left his seat in disgust, but the performance continued for 33 minutes and he became one of the most famous composers in the world.
-- The Writer's Almanac