At the Heart of the Crocus – by Deborah Mercer (Adult)
My great grandmother told me this story, and I know it is true. Not because I have proof, but because she would never tell a lie and because her eyes still glittered with tears and her mouth still twitched with a smile when she told it.
She was a child when the last century was still young. Her family was poor, but they got by, and her parents were strict, but loving. Her Dad was the village cobbler, and for a while yet, many people would have their shoes made and not go to a shoe shop. He loved all his five children, but Great Gran’s little sister Betty was his favourite, his little shadow who followed him round and loved to tend the little plot he’d made her in the garden. Sometimes he spoke to her like an adult, and pointed to the border of crocuses braving the late March snow, and said that they contained something called saffron that was as valuable as gold! Her blue eyes big, she asked, “Really, Dadda?” but knew it was true. Because Dadda had said it.
And a plan was hatched in her mind. She slipped out of the house, and picked all the crocuses he had planted, and though she thought it a shame to shred and crush them, the precious saffron would help the family!
Even though their father rarely laid a finger on any of them, they wondered if he might chastise her for the wrecking of his precious garden. He did not. He took her little hand in his great leathery one, and said, gruffly, “It’s not quite like that, Betty. But you meant well.”
She died two months later, of the measles. She was only five years old, hadn’t even been to school though she had so looked forward to it.
I’m expecting a child now, and I know it will be a girl. She’s due in crocus time. I’ve already decided on a name for her. Elizabeth Saffron. But she’ll be known as Betty. Or maybe Saffy. And be far more precious than gold.