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Love really can cover all, though bitter and toxic

It flourishes on dry pastures and along well-worn paths as well as hardened edges of highways. It’s tough and has a smell to match. Its name is bitter weed and is actually an annual herb — not a flower.

In my early childhood, our family had access to fresh milk produced by cows Daddy raised. It was a delightful breakfast drink except the few times that a cow would break through the fence and dine on bitter weeds. The toxic herb made its way through the cow and into its milk, leaving a bitter tasting milk that no one could swallow.

I remember how Daddy worked to keep the pesky bitter weed out of his pastures, but the hardiness of the weed made it an ongoing battle. Invasive and toxic were and are its major traits.

Except … Yes, I recall an exception. It was some unmarked day on a summer calendar when Eli, probably around six years old, ran up to me with one hand behind his back. With a sweaty grip around his freshly gathered bouquet, he said, “Mother, these are for you!”

He wasn’t old enough to understand the meaning of toxic, and he certainly couldn’t distinguish between flora and herb types. Evidently the smell of the “weed” hadn’t bothered him either, but the bright yellow blooms got his attention. We all know that a child’s heart that is so easily stirred is often moved to share.

He had picked a bouquet and presented them to me with heartfelt devotion. I was sure of it and received them with a heartfelt mother’s love.

Recently we were riding along a rural Rankin road, and a hardy row of bitter weed bloomers waved from their rugged path. Their bitter smell and taste, their toxins, hardiness or invasive seeds never crossed my mind.

Instead, a memory of a prized bouquet from a small hand and big heart refreshed my day, and the aroma was extremely fragrant. Love really can cover all.

Letters to Camille Anding can be sent to P.O. Box 551, Brookhaven, MS, 39602, or e-mailed to camille@datalane.net.