* Editor's note: A seed of community spirit is planted when a young girl nurtures her idea of beauty.
One morning in May on the way to school, Wanda noticed a bush growing in the empty corner lot at Fillmore and Hudson streets. It must have been growing for a while because it was about two feet tall, and Wanda was surprised she hadn't noticed it before. But there it was -- bare and thorny -- and Wanda, who loved beautiful things, felt her heart beat faster.
"A rosebush!" she said to herself. "My very own rosebush!'
All during school she thought about the rosebush. During Art she drew pictures of what it would look like in bloom. During Library she borrowed books on arranging flowers. After school she rushed to the rosebush. It was still bare and thorny.
Maybe it needs some more sun, thought Wanda. So she put down her schoolbag and began dragging some of the nearby trash out to the curb. Mrs. Turner, who was on her way to the store, stopped to help her with a broken chair.
"Cleaning up the neighborhood, Wanda?" Mrs. Turner asked. "That's a nice project for you."
"Oh, I'm not just cleaning," Wanda told her. "I'm helping my rosebush to get more sun so it will bloom."
"Your rosebush?" Mrs. Turner asked. "Where is your rosebush?"
"Over there," Wanda said, pointing proudly to the bare, thorny bush.
"Oh, Wanda, I'm not sure that's a rosebush," Mrs. Turner said gently.
"Sure it is," said Wanda. "I've seen rosebushes in books, and this is what they look like before they bloom. You just wait -- in a few weeks this lot will be full of roses."
The next day after school Wanda hurried to her rosebush. It was still bare and thorny.
Maybe it needs more air, thought Wanda. So she put down her schoolbag and began taking more of the trash out to the curb.
Once I get all this trash out of here, nothing will block the air from getting to my rosebush, Wanda thought.
Mr. Claudel was on his way home from work, saw Wanda trying to drag an old door, and stopped to help.
Every day after school that week and the next, Wanda worked in the empty lot. Mrs. Giamoni, who lived in an apartment next door, gave Wanda trash bags for the old shoes, beer bottles, broken toys and bits of glass that she was picking up.
The next week, when the rosebush still wasn't blooming, Wanda talked to her school librarian.
"I need some books about getting roses to bloom," she told Ms. Jones.
"Oh, do you have a rosebush, Wanda?" Ms. Jones asked.
"Yes, but it doesn't have flowers yet, and I know it has enough sun and fresh air."
"Does it have enough water?" Ms. Jones asked.
"Water!" Wanda said. "Of course! That will make it bloom."
That afternoon she hurried to the rosebush. It was still bare and thorny.
"Don't worry, little bush," she said out loud. "I'll get you some water, and then you'll be able to grow flowers."
Wanda went to the butcher shop across the street.
"Mr. Sanchez, would you please give me some water for my rosebush?"
"Rosebush? Is that what I see you taking care of and talking to every day over there? Are you sure that's a rosebush, Wanda?" Mr. Sanchez asked.
"Oh, yes, I'm sure," Wanda said. "But it can't bloom because it needs water."
Mr. Sanchez gave her water in a plastic bucket.
Every day Wanda ran to her rosebush after school, but every day it was still bare and thorny. She watered it and sang to it and checked its bare branches for roses.
And then one day in June, Wanda had an idea. Looking at the bare, thorny bush, she said, "If my rosebush won't give roses to me, I'll just have to give roses to my rosebush." And when she saw Mrs. Turner, Mr. Claudel, Mrs. Giamoni, Ms. Jones and Mr. Sanchez, she gave each of them an invitation that said: "Please come for tea and muffins in Wanda's Rose Garden Saturday morning at 9."
The next morning at nine, everyone was surprised to see Wanda's rosebush covered with roses -- paper roses that Wanda had made herself and carefully tied to each bare, thorny branch.
But more surprising yet, everyone who came to the party had brought along a rosebush to plant near Wanda's.
After they had eaten their muffins and drunk their tea, they all got busy planting rosebushes.
And later that summer the whole lot was filled with the biggest, most beautiful, sweetest-smelling roses that anyone had ever seen -- just as Wanda had always said it would be.
From WANDA'S ROSES. Text copyright (c) 1994 by Pat Brisson. Illustrations copyright (c) 1994 by Maryann Cocca-Leffler. Published with the permission of Boyds Mills Press, Inc. All rights reserved.