This luxury word

My mother thought study was the grandest thing in the world *. It is not. When I was little, my mother and I stole flowers from the flower beds on the way to my grandparents’ house. We arrived with our hands full of wilted flowers. One day, Grandma planted one of them. I used to think that whatever Grandma planted would bloom. “Flowers need so little,” she says.

We did not take flowers today. Today the house was quiet. Mum turned on the lights, brought fruit, mada soursop juice. Grandma told me that, with crochet, she kept sadness occupied. She showed me the unfinished white cloth, saying “there is no wisdom here”. My mother put some music to play, my grandparents laughed, a tango was playing their modest joy. No, Mum. The finest thing in the world is feeling *. Someday, the flowers Grandma planted will die. But today the house was briefly full of noise, then it became quiet again. “What we should do,” Mum said, “we should close our hearts and move on.” No mention was made of love. My grandparents turned out the lights, and we went out. Flowers need so little.

[* from Adelia Prado’s poem “Teaching”, tr. David Coles:
My mother thought study
the grandest thing in the world.
It is not.
The grandest thing in the world is feeling.
That night, father working overtime,
she said to me:
“Poor man, such an hour, and still hard at work.”
She prepared bread and coffee, left a saucepanful of hot water on the
stove.
No mention was made of love.
That luxury word.]


Henri Fantin-Latour
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