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She came home, carrying it like one of the regal magi bearing a gift for the infant Jesus. Held with seriousness beyond her five years, this tiny green shoot in a yogurt pot.

She told me teacher said to plant it in the garden. Teacher said to water it. Teacher said, teacher said, teacher said! Is teacher any relation of Alan Titchmarsh, I muttered...But dutifully I helped her little hands trowel away a small hole. Together we gently pressed soil around the roots. She used her green plastic watering can, the one with the white daisies on it, to water the tiny plant. The look of joy on her face reminded me of myself when I first held her.

Over the weeks I became obsessed with the little flower. A seasonally bizarre frost had me out in the garden, still in my dressing gown and slippers, manically breathing on the chilled plant, wondering if hot water might save it or kill it off altogether.

Her older brothers spent time in the gulag when a game of football threatened to flatten the tiny wisp of green.

And when it finally flowered, I took her out to see it - practically shaking with the anticipation of her delight. She smiled, then frowned. "I wanted one with a yellow flower!" And she stomped back inside.

Triona Walsh