When my older daughter was 8 or so she asked me, “Are we rich?” At the time she was flipping through an American Girl Doll catalogue considering how to spend her birthday money when the question popped out.
My reply: “You are shopping for a dog for you doll! Yes, we are rich. You have never once wondered if you would go to bed hungry because we did not have any food in the house. We have a nice home that keeps us warm and dry throughout the year. You have clothes, you go to school and you receive many of toys and cash on your birthday. We have plenty of money for everything we need, and for many things that we want. Yes, we are rich.”
As Unitarian Universalists it was important to Rinda and I that our kids understand how privileged they are. My wife and I wanted them to be grateful for the most important things in life: clean water, an abundance of food, trusting relationships, and good health. We hoped to teach them to put the ups and downs of their lives in context and know to be grateful just for the chance to be alive.
Most nights before dinner we hold hands and bend our heads as one of us says these words, “Dear God, Thank you for this food and for all that went into brining it to our table.” Though we take turns speaking, I am almost always the one who initiates saying grace. To be honest, I feel intrusive and demanding when I bring it up. Just before I mention it I wonder if it is worth interrupting everyone for this ritual that is important to me. I have to push past my own doubts and my family’s actual or perceived resistance to insist upon this nightly ritual. But during the prayer, with my eyes closed and a warm hand holding mine, in the moment when I actually feel grace, I never doubt. Taking the time for gratitude, for remembering that we are wealthy enough, is always worth it.
In 1837, Lisbeth Wainwright is born to the white mistress of a sprawling Virginia plantation. Seconds later, she is delivered into the arms of her black wet nurse, Mattie. For a field hand like Mattie, her transfer to the big house is supposed to be considered an honor—except that the move tears Mattie away from her beloved grandfather and her infant son, Samuel. But Mattie is a slave, with no say in the matter, and so she devotes herself to her master’s daughter, though she longs to be raising her own child. Growing up under Mattie’s tender care, little Lisbeth adopts the woman’s deep-seated faith in God, her love of music and black-eyed peas, and the tradition of hunting for yellow crocuses in the early days of spring.
As the years pass, Lisbeth is drawn slowly back into her white parents’ world and begins to learn the ins and outs of life for a high-born young lady. Still she retains her connection to Mattie, befriending Samuel and drifting comfortably between the two worlds. She accepts her parents’ assertion that their slaves depend upon them for guidance and protection, yet that notion becomes more and more difficult to believe as she gains awareness of the inequality of life in the big house versus the slave quarters. When, on the threshold of her society wedding to debonair Edward Cunningham, Lisbeth bears witness to a shockingly brutal act, the final vestiges of her naiveté crumble around her. Just twenty-one years old, she is forced to choose between what is socially acceptable and what is right, a decision that will change her life forever.
This compelling historical novel chronicles young Lisbeth Wainwright’s coming-of-age during one of the most difficult chapters of American history. Lisbeth’s powerful bond with Mattie makes her loss of innocence in the face of society’s ugly secrets all the more heartbreaking, and yet it is the courage she learns from her stand in mother that enables Lisbeth to blaze a new path for herself. Yellow Crocus offers moving proof of how the greatest social change often blooms forth from small personal acts of love.
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Genre - Historical Fiction
Rating – PG-13
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