The Innocent Pink Rose: Many sometimes ago; when I was photographing at a prestigious botanical garden. I witnessed what was to become a life long uncomfortableness; one of those enigmatical, lingering memories that many of us submerge deep into our subconscious. I remember it was mid to late afternoon, on a balmy summer’s day; some 30 feet away from me and my camera stood an older man with what appeared to be his granddaughter. I’m guessing she was about five or six years old, not quite the age of reasoning, but this kid was certainly aware of her surroundings and taking it all in, with the innocence of a child’s delight. Her cheeks were rosy red which truly complemented the pale pink dress she was wearing. It looked to me to have little flower bouquets, embroidered from the collar to the hem. She had on a pair of black buckle up patent leather shoes with well matching pink in her lace trimmed socks.
The assumed grandfather was crusty, his mouth was shaped in such a way that it was most likely impossible for him to even remotely generate a smile. The hair line was shallow with a pronounced mix a dark and gray. His clothes were workman like khakis, both shirt and pants, with low top work boots that were surprisingly clean and well-kept. His pants were being held up by an overly cinched well-worn belt and it’s long hanging strap. It led me to believe this man had recently lost a fair amount of weight. The sudden loss may have contributed to his sullen posture and demeanor. If I had to guess, I would think his age was betrayed by the hard years he lived. But I will let my memory suggest he was living in his own cheerless 60s.
As the two of them walked the gardens, he managed to keep relatively close to her, occasionally holding her hand. He himself was totally disinterested in the beautiful surroundings and all of the botanicals in various stages of blooming. The little girl on the other hand was taking it all in, every single color, and the ones that yielded fragrance she was smelling with what appeared to be pure joy. Occasionally commenting to her grandfather, “Isn’t this red flower so beautiful.”
Watching the two of them was taking me away from my original mission which was to capture some of this beauty of the gardens photographically. Of course I knew a photograph, no matter how good, could never truly capture what nature so dominantly built. But it was always fun to come up with a new composition.
As I looked for the perfect shot. I kept a side glance on the two of them. Their reactions to the gardens were diametrically opposed. The grandfather; indifferent as could be; deep breath sighing was heard coming out of his mouth. I could tell this was the last place he wanted to be, but I could also tell he was doing his best to show tender understanding for his granddaughter, and giving her every opportunity to experience all this floral menagerie had to offer.
It was about this time, I witnessed something that bothered me instantly, and still pretty much does to this very day!
I witnessed the true innocence of a little child getting crushed and deeply hurt. We all like to explore, not only with our eyes and our sense of smell, but we love to touch things. It was the grandfather’s response to the touching of the rose, that started the agitation for me and hurt for little girl.
As innocent as could be, she found a beautiful pink rose, that she admired intensely. Seeing her passion and love for its color and its fragrant smell brought joy to my heart. I could easily understand why she was so smitten: it was probably the most perfect, most beautiful rose in the entire place. Watching this kid’s innocent joy, reminded me of how wonderful it is to have a communion with nature from an unaffected point of view.
Then it happened— her grandfather severely rained on her innocence. He blurted out: in fact he pretty much yelled it out; so no one in that botanical garden could avoid hearing what he said— “Don’t touch the flowers! If you do a policeman will come and take you away!” From my advantage point, I could see the little girls expression, she was devastated. All childlike wonder and joy drained from her face. Even her body language shifted uncomfortably to vanquishnes. My heart sank; I was filled with emotional empathy. I can tell her upsetedness quickly turned to being scared that someone would actually come and take her away.
The grandfather’s comment was mean! There was no other explanation for it. Once I calmed down I tried to understand what would cause a supposedly caring guardian from saying such a thing to an innocent child. I realize as we go through life from childhood to adult, and even to old age we experience hurtful things, most often delivered by someone we know. These mean comments stick; they surface from time to time, usually triggered by another incident that refocuses our memories. The grandfather in this true story; himself, must’ve lived a life filled with unkindnesses. It certainly was reflected in his face and demeanor. I have no doubt that somewhere deep in this man, was a kindness that had been suppressed by the challenges of life, that he no doubt faced over the years.
Sympathy was in short supply when it came to the contrast between an innocent child and the bitter old man’s coldness. I wanted to do something to ease the child’s pain, but I knew this would become impossible, as I was thinking about what I could do, they walk out of the garden’s hand in hand.
While I was writing this story, I desperately tried to remember the little girls name. This took place 30 plus years ago. I am reasonably certain she called the older man grandpa. And I can only vaguely remember her name as being Mary, which would’ve been most fitting for this child, because she was filled with cheerfulness. Much of the finer details have stayed with me, like their looks, mannerisms and how they were dressed. I remember visual details easily; always have, but I’m terrible with names. I’ve always attributed that to dyslexia; I just don’t know for sure. Probably being a commercial photographer for many years has taught me to see and remember things visually.
As I relived this experience through the years, I have learned to come to terms with what were, and currently are my perceptions at the time. I prayed for the child as well as her grandfather, I understand that we all experience uninvited hurts. Hopefully we learn from those hurts and do our best to be kind and understanding to others.