Kara’s Bean


After a roller coaster of strange winter weather, I find myself catapulted into a string of juicy, bud-popping spring days. Blue-green days when my thoughts turn to seeds and the mysterious powers they hold inside their tiny, improbable-looking dried shells. Days when anything seems possible if I can wait long enough.

My niece Kara recently came for an out of town visit and proudly brought her latest second-grade project to show me. She carefully produced a small cup filled with a half inch of brown soil and intently pointed to the empty spot where she had planted a bean. Her bean. During her visit she faithfully watered it, kept it turned toward the sun, watched for any sign of life. And waited.

Like most everyone who has traveled the public school system, I remember planting my own bean many years ago. The only difference is that I used a plain paper Dixie cup, while Kara’s bean rested inside a short, plastic Walmart-sponsored cup. But the youthful wonder and expectant hope about what miracles might transpire inside the cup remained the same.

When Kara’s visit came to an end, she announced that she wanted to leave her bean with me and asked if I would take care of it and bring it to her when I came for a visit in few weeks. After outlining detailed instructions on how I should care for it, Kara leaned down and blew a good-bye kiss to the barren soil where she was sure her bean would sprout.

Realizing that I had been entrusted with the hope of an 8-year-old, I became the intent caretaker of one small bean in a plastic cup. I kept it near a sun-filled kitchen window. Several times a day I checked to make sure the soil was moist. I talked to it. We had frequent one-way conversations about what a big wonderful world it was up here, how eager Kara was to meet her bean and her long-term plans to plant it in a garden. I felt sure the bean could hear me and was gathering all its forces and heading toward the light.

At some point, I joined my niece in the adventure of waiting for the inexplicable miracle of nature to repeat itself. I was not disappointed. Two weeks after I became its custodian, the green bean sprouted and began to grow at a rate that astonished me. I took daily photos and emailed them to Kara so she could track the progress. I planted an abandoned chopstick next to the bean so that I could mark and measure its daily growth. The bean had delivered on its unseen promise. The waiting had paid off.

However, after more than a week of marveling at the triumphant power of nature, I came into the kitchen one morning to find the slender sprout drooping sadly to one side. No amount of cajoling and singing and nurturing could revive the bean, and it died.

Now the dilemma was what to tell Kara. She had waited faithfully and confidently for her bean to come to life. She was dreaming of planting it in a garden and some day picking beans from her mama bean. In her short 8 years of life, Kara had lost her grandfather, two favorite great grandparents, an uncle and had weathered her parent’s divorce. I weighed the obvious factors and decided she didn’t need another lesson in how to deal with loss.

I made a quick trip to my favorite plant nursery, bought a package of beans and planted them with hopeful blessings and positive thoughts. And a good fertilizer. Again, I tentatively waited for unseen forces to produce another miracle. And again, I was not disappointed. And neither was Kara.

Lynn Pinkerton knew in the fifth grade that she wanted to be a writer when she grew up, and after careers in social services and special event marketing, she reclaimed her childhood aspiration and joined a writing group. She lives in Houston.

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  1. i have to say, that is rather thoughtful of you, but i can’t find my way past the fact that she wanted you to do her work for her, it seems like she would have been better off putting forth her own efforts to achieve either a live or dead bean sprout.

    props to a heart-felt solution to sending positive energies to the niece.

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