Meh, this was okay.
Edith lay belly-down in the soil, her head propped up in her hands, her legs skyward and crossed at the ankles. Her eyes were fixed on a single spot, its existence memorialized with a popsicle stick. Her dimpled hand reached toward the dirt beneath the orange-tinged stick she’d devoured a frozen confection from three days earlier, but then she paused, looking around. Satisfied, she settled back on her stomach and carefully dug a small hole with her finger. She stirred the ground until she found what she was looking for. Smiling, she pulled out a coin and held it into the sun. When she saw it was copper, she frowned, placed it back into the newly made hole, and carefully covered it.
“Edith?” The voice came from the back porch. “What are you doing?”
Edith scrambled to her feet and attempted to brush the dirt off of her clothes. “Nothing!” she called back. Then, not wanting to sound too guilty, she changed her answer. “Just playing!” She heard the screen door go through its musical arrangement—squeak, squeak, SLAM—and assumed Mawmaw went back inside. She was still trying to remove the dust from her jeans when a shadow fell over her. She jumped, startled.
Mawmaw stood over Edith, drying her hands on a dishcloth. “What were you playing?” Mawmaw asked. Edith searched her face for signs of suspicion, but Mawmaw’s expression was guileless.
“I was playing…” Edith looked around the garden. “I was playing farmer.”
“I see,” Mawmaw said, shoving the towel into the back pocket of her slacks. “You weren’t, by chance, checking on the progress of your tree, were you?”
“No,” Edith said. When Mawmaw said nothing, she added, “Well… maybe just a little.”
Mawmaw bent down and looked at the popsicle stick. While most of the earth at the garden’s surface was dry and crumbly from the summer heat, the soil around the stick was rich and dark. “It looks like you did a little digging,” she said.
“Just a little,” Edith said again. Her expression became anxious. “Do you think I ruined it?”
Mawmaw pursed her lips and sighed to show her disappointment. “No, honey. But I’ll bet it turned back into a penny, didn’t it?”
Edith looked at the ground with regret. “Yes,” she said.
“Yes, I thought so,” Mawmaw said. “Well, now you’ll have to start over. Is it still in the ground?”
“Oh yes,” Edith said, as if actually taking the penny for keeps was unthinkable. “I put it back.”
“Whew!” Mawmaw clutched at her chest. “We still have a chance then.” She smiled as she saw her granddaughter visibly relax. She’d done the money tree routine on her kids as well, and she’d almost missed the chance to experience this with Edith. Her daughter’s family came to visit every other year, and at almost seven years old, Edith was too young last time because she didn’t quite have the hang of currency yet. Next time, she wouldn’t have bought the ruse—even Santa Claus was nearing the end of his run. But for these two weeks, Edith was the perfect age.
“Well, I guess we’d better give it a drink of water. Edie, can you run and get the can?”
She didn’t have to ask twice. Edith sprinted to the porch and retrieved the hard plastic watering can. It was large and almost full, and Edith needed both hands to carry it back to the garden. She’d sloshed half of its contents before reaching her destination, but that was all right. They wouldn’t need much.
“Okay, now, carefully give it a little splash,” Mawmaw said, motioning to the stick. Edith tried to tip the spout slowly, but gravity took over, and most of the water gushed onto the soil, making a little crater.
“Woah, woah! That’s enough!” Mawmaw said. “You don’t want to drown the thing. And then it absolutely won’t grow.” Seeing the worry on Edith’s face, she quickly added, “But I think it’ll be okay.”
“Mawmaw, why does it go back? To a penny, I mean. When I look at it.”
“You know what? I don’t know,” Mawmaw said. “That seems to be a scientific mystery. But if I had to guess, I think it’s because it’s down there doing its thing and doesn’t want to be disturbed. Has that ever happened to you? You’re working on a thing, like coloring or reading, and you’re interrupted. And then you lose your place, so you have to start over?”
“Yeah!” Edith said. “I was practicing my letters and then Nathan came in and ruined it and I had to start over with a new piece of paper.”
“Yep,” Mawmaw said. “Exactly like that. With things like this, you can’t rush. You have to be patient and just let it do what it needs to do in its own time.”