“Mormor, what is that bucket on your porch?”
It’s for making ice cream, child.
“But why does it have flowers in it, then?”
There’s a story in that bucket with the flowers, child.
“What kind of story? A true one?”
So very true, my little. Truer than any fairy story in a book.
“Does it have a princess in it?”
Not a princess, no. But the girl in the story was everything a princess should be – brave and loving and loyal. So loyal. And sometimes a little headstrong.
“What is that?”
It means this girl – her name was Laurel – was stubborn sometimes. When she made up her mind to do something there was no telling her not to. Even if the thing was a little dangerous and scary.
“What did she do that was scary, Mormor?”
She hitchhiked, child. She only did it once, but it wasn’t a safe way for a girl to travel climbing into strangers’ cars and trucks.
“So why did she do it?”
Because Laurel had a friend, my little. A friend she met in college. A friend she stood up for and told secrets to and argued with. A friend who was in her wedding and wanted Laurel to be in hers. A friend who lived a very long way away, and Laurel didn’t have the money to travel there. So she stuck out her thumb and got rides from strangers to get to the wedding.
“How far did she travel, Mormor?”
Hundreds and hundreds of miles, child. And all she could carry was a pack on her back.
But do you know what was in the pack? That bucket. It was for making ice cream, and the girl named Laurel bought it for her friend’s wedding and carried it all the way across the country. Can you imagine that?
“But why do you have it on your porch, Mormor?
Because I am the other girl in the story. Laurel was my friend, and she gave that bucket to me when I married your grandfather a very long time ago.
“And you’ve always had it, Mormor?”
I had it for dozens of years, child. But then it was time for us to move here to our new home, and when the big truck was all loaded up there was no more room and we had to leave lots of things behind. I could not bring the bucket.
“So what happened to it?”
On our last night in our old house a friend came to say goodbye, child. This friend’s name was Sharon. She found me out by the street where we were piling things we couldn’t bring. I don’t remember this, but she said I was crying.
“But why were you sad, Mormor? Because you were moving?”
A little. I was so tired and goodbyes are hard. But mostly I was crying because leaving the bucket was like losing my friend again.
“What happened to your friend? To Laurel?”
One year after your grandfather and I were married, Laurel was in a terrible accident, child. I went to see her in a place called New York and she didn’t know me anymore. But every time we moved I kept the bucket to remember how brave and funny and silly Laurel was. I kept it for 42 years. I still miss her, I do.
“But what happened to the bucket, Mormor?”
Friends are wondrous things, child. Remember the girl named Sharon who came to say goodbye? She took that old bucket home with her so it wouldn’t get thrown away or damaged.
“But it’s sitting right here now and it looks so pretty!”
You know how you’ve come to visit us here, my little? My friend Sharon came too just a few weeks ago. And you know what she brought with her? My ice cream bucket! All scrubbed and shining like the day Laurel first gave it to me.
“And did you laugh to see it again, Mormor?”
No, child, I cried.
“But why? Weren’t you happy to have the bucket back again?”
Sometimes grownups do funny things when they are happy. Sharon carried that bucket all the way here to North Carolina. I cried because the bucket wasn’t empty anymore. Do you see what’s in it now?
“It’s a plant, Mormor, with flowers.”
Not just any flowers, child. They are called Mountain Laurel. The girl named Sharon who didn’t even know my old friend brought the bucket back to me full of Laurel and her story. Can you imagine that?
“Is she a brave friend too?”
Very brave, child, with her own stories to tell. Happy ones and sad ones too. And she is kind. So very kind.
“So what will happen to the bucket, Mormor, now that it’s home again?”
Someday I’ll give this bucket to you when I can’t have it anymore, and you will tell your grandchildren the story.
“The story about the girl Laurel who wasn’t a princess but was brave and loyal?”
That one, yes, and about the girl Sharon too who is kind and knows you can’t leave memories behind. They have to go with you.
She brought the bucket back with flowers in it and something special on it. Do you see that shiny label? Do you know what it says?
“I can’t read yet, Mormor.”
It says true friends will be friends forever, child, even when you don’t see them anymore.
“It says all that?”
All that, my precious girl, and so much more.