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Cherry Blossom Petals

An elegant few, pale pink blossoms on the slender limbs of a delicate February Fuji Cherry tree, displayed themselves in the midst of a light winter snow. To Naomi, looking down on the scene from her second floor bedroom window, the blossoms looked magical—large, pink snowflakes amid the falling, smaller, white ones. The tree looked very much like the beautiful, delicate hazel tree in Elenore Abbot’s illustration for “Cinderella” in Grimm’s Fairy Tales. In this version of “Cinderella,” rather than a fairy godmother, the magical tree, upon a certain incantation, showers Cinderella with a gorgeous ball gown.

If only Naomi could try the same incantation under the cherry blossom tree, perhaps a beautiful dress would float down from the branches. But, she was sick and had to stay in her bedroom until pronounced well again by the doctor. Naomi slipped out of bed, opened a door with its crystalline door knob, and went into the long alcove attached to her bedroom, searching for the book of Grimm’s Fairy Tales: Selected and Illustrated by Elenore Abbot, a treasured gift from Mother’s brother, Uncle Shosuke. He reminded Naomi of “Uncle Drosslemeyer” in the Nutcracker ballet for he was mysterious, magician-like, and a bit scary, possessed of amazing intellect and great powers.

Naomi couldn’t resist peeking out the alcove window, made of diamond-shaped pieces of glass set in a metal frame. One of the diamond-shaped pieces of glass had been broken and though the hole had been stuffed with a rag, a cold draft blew into the room. Snowflakes still swirled outside, covering the fields, roads, and tree outside with a delicious looking white frosting. The draft drove her away from the window. Naomi went to the bookcase where she knew Mother left the book.

Naomi opened the book and leaning against the small bookcase in the cold alcove, she read “Cinderella” again, gazing at the lush, colorful illustrations in the book. She dozed off, dreaming of beautiful dresses showering down on her from the cherry blossom tree but awakened shivering in the drafty alcove and crept back into her warm bed, pulling the book into bed too. That’s where her mother found both, Naomi and the book of fairy tales. Mother took the book away, drew down the shade over the window beside Naomi’s bed and told Naomi she should not read because it was “…bad for her eyes.” That evening, Mother found that Naomi’s temperature was 104 degrees.

It seemed to take forever to get well and it wasn’t until two weeks later that Naomi returned to school. During her recovery, Naomi had continued to slip into the alcove to read books in the bookcase but the book of Grimm’s Fairy Tales had disappeared. The remaining books were not nearly as interesting or as understandable as the book of fairy tales but at least they provided something to read—a break from the boredom of lying in bed. There was no radio, no television, no telephone, and no computer in her room for it was 1948.

By the time Naomi went back to school, spring had arrived. All the blossoms on the winter-blooming cherry blossom tree had fallen off and lovely, graceful, pale green leaves covered it. In the months to follow, the large, double-petal cherry blossom trees sent out green leaves and buds. All the snow was gone and shoots of green grass sprouted everywhere. Grandfather, Jichan, planted pansies in the flowerbeds surrounding the house. Soon daffodils, bluebells, and bright pink crocus blossoms joined the blooming pansies and the air was fragrant with the smell of the crocus blossoms.

At school, Naomi made May baskets out of woven strips of pink and purple construction paper, shaped into cones and glued together with paste. Mother, Father, Grandfather, and Grandmother all approved of the pretty baskets and Naomi filled her basket so full of bluebells and pink crocus that the fragile handle to her May basket broke. She knew that Mother would not allow her to use the transparent tape to mend the handle because Mother always said the tape was too expensive to use for anything other than the family greenhouse/florist business. Grandmother, Bachan, showed Naomi how to make a paste with water and smashed grains of leftover cooked rice. The handle was reattached but Naomi carried the basket afterward only by the base of the basket and not by the handle.

The outside of her bedroom window was now filled with the tips of branches from the large cherry blossom trees. The branches were filled with a profusion of huge, double-petal pale pink cherry blossoms. The red-leaved plum trees, next to the double-petal cherry blossom trees, were blooming too but their branches were too low to be seen easily from Naomi’s bedroom window. Gazing down at the cherry blossom tree in full bloom inspired Naomi to run outside and stand under the large cherry blossom tree. As she looked up into the tall branches of the cherry blossom tree, she thought of the beautiful dresses that were bestowed on Cinderella. Just at that moment, a strong breeze swept through the branches of the cherry blossom tree and a shower of cherry blossom petals fell on Naomi’s upturned face, covering her and the ground with an exquisite cherry blossom petal snow. 

 

© 2017 Susan Yamamura

cherry blossoms cinderella fairy tale fiction sakura short story