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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Yellow (11/12/09)

TITLE: The Sunflower House
By Mary Lou Cook


On a thick carpet of clover I laid on my back gazing up at the sunflowers with their round faces full of brown seeds encircled by bright yellow petals. Nearby a monarch butterfly fluttered from leaf to leaf and a lady bug climbed slowly up a thick stalk. Throughout the large flowers grew Indian corn with ears of kernels covered in brown, yellow, and orange. The soothing aromas of camomile and catnip surrounded the small enclosure. Inside the dense walls of the green foliage my daughters, Tegan, age eight, and Toria, age six, spent many hours playing dress-up with their dolls. After this morning their childhood will never be the same. My thoughts turned back to our last summer together and how we enjoyed being a family.

My husband, Jim, decided to build a sunflower house. Over the internet he and his daughters searched for the information they needed and sent out order forms for seed catalogs. On an August morning my husband and the girls started working on their exciting project. With his long strides Jim marked off an 8’x8’ square. At each corner he would stop and help Tegan hammer in a wooden stake. Toria struggled along carrying the tools and the supplies that were needed. With the small garden framed in yellow yarn they planted white clover that will grow throughout the winter. Down the four sides Jim dug a deep furrow while Tegan and Toria followed behind hoeing shallow moats. Next spring the girls will make the walls out of sunflowers by placing the seeds in the furrows dug by their Daddy. The eight foot tall plants will provide abundant shade and the four foot ones will be for them to enjoy looking at eye-to-eye. Among the large flowers they plan to grow multi-colored Indian corn. In early summer they will plant camomile and catnip, which will give off soothing aromas. Jim gave me a packet of carrot seeds to grow a surprise for them, hoping that in the summer Tegan and Toria will discover while playing in the house.

By September Jim had left for his second tour of duty in Afghanistan. In the evening before bed time Tegan and Toria sat in front of the computer telling their Daddy good night and sharing their prayers with him. Putting on a brave smile I told him that the three of us were doing well but missed him. After he and I prayed, he’d smile at me and say, “Hang in there Babe. I’ll be home soon. I love you.” With a simple click the screen went blank and his familiar face was gone.

In early spring Tegan came running into the house breathless and excited. The white clover was growing up through the melting snow. A few weeks after that Toria spotted small green sprouts poking up out of the ground. Ever evening in front of the computer the girls told their Daddy how tall the sunflowers and the Indian corn had grown. By July the girls started taking photos of their sunflower house to share with him through emails. Then Toria spotted something orange growing out of the dirt. Much to her amazement she pulled up a carrot. That evening she held the small vegetable up to the computer screen so her Daddy could see what she had found.

September arrived with Tegan and Toria starting another one of their projects, a homecoming for their Daddy. The party will be held in their sunflower house with plans to bake him a carrot cake. Then the phone call came, “I’m sorry to inform you but your husband’s helicopter went down over the ocean. There were no survivors.”

I prayed to God for the words to tell my daughters their Daddy wouldn’t be coming home. With heavy steps I walked into our home and started to cry. I can’t let the girls see me like this. I had to be strong for Tegan and Toria. Trying to stop my tears I saw a message had come in on the computer. I walked over and clicked it on to see on the screen Jim’s familiar face smiling back at me. “An officer pulled rank. He bumped me off my morning flight, I’m catching a later one this afternoon. Hang in there Babe. I’ll be home soon. I love you.”

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Member Comments
Member Date
Rachel Miller11/19/09
Well done. The reader becomes a part of the family, anticipating, hoping, planning, crying and finally rejoicing.