More Than Flowers


Doing good is a pleasure, a joy beyond measure, A blessing of duty and love (Hymns, no. 223).

More Than Flowers

I figured that I had my Mother’s Day present all taken care of, thanks to Mr. Lee. In his fifth grade class, we had all made a special flower arrangement for our mothers—a small wishing well made of Popsicle sticks and filled with tiny artificial flowers.

We worked for hours on it in Mr. Lee’s class, and he insisted that we do a good job. All the little spots of glue had to be wiped clean. The flowers had to be arranged perfectly. Mr. Lee told us that he wanted our mothers to be really impressed with this gift.

At first, I didn’t believe that my wishing well would ever turn out as beautiful as the one Mr. Lee made as a model. But the longer I worked on it and the fussier I was with it and the more Mr. Lee gave me suggestions and help, the more my wishing well began to look even better than the model.

I finished it the Friday before Mother’s Day. As I admired the thatched roof and the well bulging with tiny red, yellow, and orange flowers, I knew that this was going to be my very best Mother’s Day present ever.

I already knew the perfect spot for my gift—in the kitchen window above the sink. Then, every day, whether it was spring or winter, when Mom looked out that window, she would see flowers.

Saturday was a gorgeous spring day. School was almost over for the summer. The trees all had new leaves, the grass was green, the sun was shining. It was the kind of day that you wanted to go on forever so you could stay outside and play. That’s what I did with my younger brothers, Daniel and Justin. We were building a clubhouse in the huge sycamore tree in our backyard.

Mom was at a special Relief Society workday. She had fixed us breakfast that morning, then put our lunch in the fridge and told us to take care of things while she was gone. Dad worked on his truck in the garage. Our little sister, Leah, stayed near the clubhouse.

Usually we were busy with chores on Saturday, but since Mom wasn’t there to remind us, and Dad was busy in the garage, we didn’t worry about them.

At lunchtime, we ate the things Mom had left for us. Justin mixed up a pitcher of punch. He spilled sugar on the kitchen counter and slopped punch on the floor, but we didn’t worry about it too much—Mom would take care of it when she came home.

As Justin, Daniel, and I charged outside to finish our clubhouse, I noticed that the house looked a little like a tornado had blown through it. The family room still had the blankets, pillows, cushions, and toys left from Saturday cartoons. The kitchen was a royal mess. Our bedrooms were worse. The bathroom was horrible! Most of our clubhouse dirt had ended up streaked in the sink or smeared on the bathroom cabinet. Leah had tried to clean her watercolor brushes by herself, so mixed in with our dirt was red, blue, and green paint.

The house was such a disaster that I was happy to get out of there. I hoped that Mom would hurry home and get it cleaned up before we had to go back inside.

A little after three o’clock, Mom pulled up in the van, and we all helped her carry Relief Society things into the house. As soon as she walked inside, her mouth dropped open. “What happened here?”

“Most of this mess must be Leah’s,” Daniel explained. “We’ve been working on the clubhouse.”

Just then Leah came into the living room with her watercolor painting and handed it to Mom. “Happy Mother’s Day,” she chirped.

Mom was still looking at the mess everywhere, but she took the picture, smiled, and gave Leah a big hug. “Thank you, Leah,” she said warmly. “It is beautiful. I had forgotten that Mother’s Day is tomorrow.”

I slipped out of the house with Justin and Daniel. A few minutes later, Mom called to us. Sister Reynolds, who had had a baby a few days ago, needed some help cleaning up her house, and Mom was going to lend a hand.

Justin watched Mom’s van drive off. “You know,” he said sadly, “it doesn’t seem fair that Mom has to clean two houses. Somebody else ought to clean Sister Reynolds’s house. Mom didn’t make that mess.”

“She didn’t make the mess in our house, either,” Daniel said.

“She wouldn’t have to clean it if we did it for her.” Justin’s face brightened into a smile. “We could do it for our Mother’s Day present.”

I wrinkled my nose and shook my head. “I already have a Mother’s Day present for her—probably the best one I’ve ever given to her.”

“I forgot about Mother’s Day,” Daniel muttered sadly. “I don’t have anything for Mom.”

“Neither do I,” Justin joined in, frowning. “What did you get Mom that’s so great?” he asked me.

I took Justin and Daniel into the house and secretly and carefully took out the package that I had hidden in the back of my closet. I peeled back the tape and folded back the tissue paper. Justin’s and Daniel’s eyes bulged.

“She’ll love it, for sure,” Justin proclaimed.

“I’ve already picked the perfect spot for it,” I said proudly.

I took the flower arrangement into the kitchen and placed it on the windowsill. It didn’t look as wonderful there as I’d thought it would. You didn’t see it because of the dirty dishes in the sink and on the counters, knives and forks and dried pieces of sandwiches on the table, and crumbs and spilled punch on the unswept floor.

“I don’t think Mom will even notice the flowers,” Daniel pointed out.

“Let’s clean up the mess so Mom can see your flowers better,” Daniel suggested again. “It can be our Mother’s Day present.”

“I already have my Mother’s Day present,” I repeated stubbornly, snatching my flowers from the window. I stomped back to my room, determined to keep my gift until the house was clean so that Mom could appreciate it.

We went back outside to the clubhouse, but I had a hard time concentrating—I kept picturing my beautiful flowers sitting right in the middle of our dirty, messy house.

“All right,” I suddenly flared, turning on Daniel and Justin, “we’ll clean the kitchen for my flowers. But that’s all!”

Justin started on the dishes in the sink. Daniel cleared and cleaned the table. I grabbed a broom and started to sweep. There were still sticky spots on the floor after I swept, so I got the mop and wiped them up. Then I helped Justin and Daniel finish the dishes. We straightened the chairs, put things neatly in the cupboards and the fridge.

I rushed down the hall to my bedroom, got the flower arrangement, and put it in the kitchen window. “Perfect,” I announced with a huge grin. “Now she’ll notice my flowers because they’re not right in the middle of a big mess.”

“But what about the living room and the family room?” Daniel questioned. “She’ll see both of those before she ever sees the kitchen. She’ll be thinking of that huge mess when she sees your flowers.”

He was right. “Then we’ll clean the family room,” I declared.

We started on the family room. But we couldn’t stop there. Once we finished the family room, the living room didn’t look right. We straightened and dusted and vacuumed. Soon Justin was cleaning our room. Daniel joined him. I decided to do Leah’s room.

Once we got started, it became kind of fun to watch our dirty, messy house change into a clean, comfortable one, a house that Mom wouldn’t be sorry to come home to. And the more we worked, the more work we discovered that needed to be done.

I returned to the kitchen and saw that we really needed to scrub and polish the sink. Then I did the same to the stove while Daniel and Justin worked on the sink and tub in the bathroom. We gathered the dirty laundry and filled up the washer.

I don’t ever remember working so hard. When we finally finished, all of us had sweat dripping down our faces, but the house was perfect. Even the cushions on the sofa were arranged exactly the way Mom liked them.

We saw the van pull into the driveway and ducked into a closet to hide. When the front door opened and Mom stepped inside, we pushed the door open a crack. She stood in the doorway, looking about her. Her eyes were wide, and she was smiling. Slowly she began moving about the house, examining first the family room and living room. She stuck her head inside the bathroom. She crept down the hall and looked into our bedrooms. She kept muttering to herself, “I just can’t believe it’s the same house!”

She went to the kitchen last, and we slipped in behind her. “Happy Mother’s Day!” we burst out.

Mom whipped around and exclaimed happily, “So you’re the ones who have worked magic here! I dreaded coming home,” she confided. I kept wishing that somehow all the mess would just disappear. And when I got here, my wish had come true!”

“How do you like Stephen’s flowers?” Justin asked, pointing at the kitchen window.

Mom turned and her eyes went to the miniature wishing well in the window. “Oh, how beautiful!” She walked slowly to the window, admiring my flowers. “The house was so neat and beautiful,” she laughed, “that I didn’t notice these.” Then she turned back to me and said, “Thank you, Stephen. And do you know what makes them so special to me?” She didn’t wait for me to answer. “The clean house around them. Thank you, boys! I don’t remember a Mother’s Day gift that I have loved and appreciated as much as this one.”

As Mom hugged us, I glanced at the flowers in the window, thankful that they were displayed in a very clean house.

[illustrations] Illustrated by Julie F. Young