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My wife, Donna, looked out the window and saw two little girls. The girls are about nine years old and are good friends. Both of them are from single parent homes and have struggled in the tough situations they have found themselves in. We have watched these little girls, who were already quite shy, turn even more inward.

Donna has a beautiful flower garden that, right now, is in full bloom with tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, and many other flowers. The girls were walking down our road and stopped to enjoy the array of colors. The flowers were too tempting, and the girls decided to walk into the middle of them. Alean couldn’t help herself and picked a flower. Becky leaned down to follow suit when she happened to glance at our big picture window and saw Donna standing there. Instead of picking the flower, Becky waved innocently.

Donna smiled and waved back, and since she was planning to leave anyway, she took her stuff out to the car so she could visit with the girls. As she did, Alean slid behind a tree and guiltily dropped the flower she had picked.

“Do you like my flowers?” Donna asked.

Becky nodded enthusiastically. “They are very pretty!”

“Well, they’re not going to last forever,” Donna replied. “I think you should each take one home. What do you think?”

Each girl smiled and nodded, and each picked her favorite flower. They happily carried their flowers to their homes to put them in some water.

Over the next few days, Donna saw the girls return multiple times. Often they would pick a flower and then head back home with it. But more and more Donna could tell the girls were hanging around, hoping she would come out.

Donna would come out of the house and invite the girls to sit in the shade of the deck. There, enjoying the porch swings, they would talk. Donna had a million things to do: papers to grade from the class she taught, dishes to wash, and floors to sweep. But she knew that these little girls needed more friendly adults in their lives, so she put it all aside to visit. She didn’t really do anything other than listen.

When I came home from work one day, Donna told me about the girls. I thought of when I first put in the flower garden. It was still early in the spring of that year. I had mulched it, tilled it, put in a sprinkling system, and finally planted the early spring bulbs.

It seemed like it took forever for the flowers to come, but they finally did. We had a full rainbow of colors from red tulips, to yellow daffodils, to blue hyacinths. I was proud of it.

Then one day, as I came in from working outside, I went to sit down and saw, through the window, my young children marching into the house with arm loads of flowers. I looked past them, and saw that the beautiful flower garden was nothing but a mass of stems. The only color it contained was green.

Our children walked into the house, huge smiles on their faces. Donna joined me, and when she saw the flower garden, she gasped. But as each child delivered an armful of flowers to us, along with a hug, my heart felt tight within me.

As the children left to go back to play, Donna turned to me and said, “Flowers don’t last forever, anyway.”

As Donna finished telling me the story of the little girls, and I looked at our increasingly bare flower garden, she said, “Flowers don’t last forever, anyway.”

I thought of my children, now grown, that I miss having at home. I nodded as I thought, “And neither does childhood.”