My family had just moved into a house in Rockville Centre. It was 1957 and I was seven then. I remember that morning, because my sister had been playing her phonograph record of Elvis Presley's hit song, "Love Me Tender". For hours, she had been playing that same LP 33 repeatedly. Was I ever glad to get out of the house. While playing in driveway, my pink punch ball bounced into my neighbor's backyard.
"How did this plant get here, Miss Cogan"? She smiled, as I asked. Shifting my weight to the other leg, I waited for her answer.
"It's an interesting story. How would you like to join me for a cup of tea inside"?
"Yes, thank you".I tried to sound experienced knowing that it was the first time anyone had ever invited me for tea. The neighborhood rumor that old-lady-Cogan was an evil witch had entirely slipped from my memory.
"I will put on the water". Miss Cogan escorted me into her house and then to an embroidered burgundy club chair in her living room. Moving very slowly, she tapped and thumped the wooden floors with the hard heals of her laced-up ankle-high black leather shoes. I scanned the room trying to avoid whiffing an unfamiliar aroma, which permeated her cozy cottage. At first, I thought it was the scent of mothballs and homemade chicken soup. Finally, I had to conclude that it was the smell of an old house and an old woman living together for a very long time.
"Yes, sure I do!" I replied defensively.
"Well of course you do".
She giggled briefly and continued: "I'm sorry; my question was misleading. What is your name"?
"It's Michael - Michael Katz, I live next door".
"Well, Michael Katz, it is my pleasure to meet you. My name is Miss Cogan".
"The flowering plant that you asked about came to my garden by a migratory bird. Some birds come back in the spring after spending their winters in the warm south". Miss Cogan paused during her explanation, poured the tea, and then continued speaking.
"That plant is actually a flowering weed and grows wild in the tropics and some subtropical climates. Tropical climates are different from here; the weather is much warmer in the winter".
"How did the bird bring the plant here"? I repeated my question, wondering if she had forgotten.
"The bird swallowed the seed, migrated up north, and in its droppings the seed found its way into my garden. Did you know that the beautiful islands of Hawaii came about in this same way"?
"No". I answered waiting for her to continue.
"This one here is a special gift from a bird". She reported, while aiming her crooked finger towards the flowering plant beside her knee. I gazed at its broad green leaves and small violet flowers that cascaded down like a cluster of tiny bells.
On that morning, a new world opened to me. Her fascinating exposition concluded. She smiled at me and said, "a penny for your thoughts".
"One seed can change the world", I replied. Miss Cogan celebrated with a hearty laugh.