Once upon a time, there lived a girl named Isobel who wanted nothing more than to be able to sing as beautifully as her mother had sung. Isobel had never lived with her parents, but had lived with her grandmother and grandfather for as long as she could remember. They would regularly play old tapes of her mother singing lullabies that Isobel was told were just for her. For years, Isobel would walk around her grandparents’ house, trying to sing the melodies from the lullabies that she knew, but she could tell that her voice was nowhere near as lovely as her mother’s. In fact, she had entered the talent contest at school and was so humiliated by some of the stares she was getting that she had run off the stage, crying. After this, Isobel promised herself she would never sing again.
For her seventh birthday, Isobel’s grandmother had bought her an unusual gift: A potted plant which, according to the tag sticking out of the dirt, required “direct sunlight” and “watering at least twice a day”. Every morning, and every evening over the next four days, Isobel watered the plant but it didn’t appear to be growing. Its leaves were turning brown and it had started to droop down towards the ground rather than reach up to the sky. Isobel asked her grandmother for advice on how to make the plant grow.
“Have you read the instructions?” she asked.
“Yes,” Isobel replied. “They say it needs sunlight and water and I’ve put them outside and I have watered them every day.”
“Did you read ALL of the instructions?”
Unsure if she had or not, Isobel returned to the plant and took another look at the tag. She turned it over and it read, requires singing at least once a day.
Isobel wasn’t quite sure what to do, so she returned to her grandmother who told Isobel that, in her old age, she had learned to take instructions quite seriously. That night, however, Isobel did not sing to her plant and found that, when she woke up in the morning, the plant had very nearly died. Isobel wanted the plant to live, but didn’t know where to get the courage to sing. As she knelt down beside the plant, her grandfather walked over to her and suggested that she give singing a try, as there was nothing to lose by trying. He left allowing her to be on her own. Isobel lifted her head slightly and began singing one of the lullabies she had heard her mother singing on the cassettes.
Hush-a-bye, don’t you cry,
Go to sleep my little baby.
When you wake you shall have
All the pretty little horses.
Isobel knew it didn’t sound as beautiful as when her mother sang it, but she tried her best. The next morning, Isobel woke up and discovered that her plant was looking much healthier. Most of its colour had come back and she had thought to herself that it had grown a little overnight as well. Each night at dusk, Isobel would kneel beside her plant and sing the same lullaby for as long as she could, and, each morning she woke up to find that it had grown more leaves and was much taller than when she had gone to bed. After four days, the plant was as tall as their house and Isobel was feeling very proud of herself for being able to keep the plant alive. She continued singing for the next week and the plant grew so tall, that she could barely see the top any more.
After two weeks, Isobel was convinced that her plant was so tall that it must have been touching the clouds and her neighbours delighted in coming to see it each afternoon. However, after one month of singing, Isobel noticed that her plant was starting to droop down, back towards the ground. She kept singing each night but, by now, she could see the top of the plant and noticed that it looked a lot different than when the plant had first started to grow. Eventually the tip of the plant drooped all the way to the ground and Isobel noticed it had grown a piece of yellow and orange fruit.
She hesitated at first but, eventually, Isobel’s curiosity got the better of her and she went over to take a closer look. She stared at it for a moment, admiring its furry texture and then touched it and thought that it felt like a soft, tropical fruit. Almost by accident, Isobel pulled the fruit off the plant. She was worried someone would see it so she ran with it to the backyard and into her outdoor cubby house. Here, she put the fruit on the little table inside and decided she might as well try a piece. The fruit broke apart easily and smelled wonderful and, before she knew it, she had eaten nearly half of the deliciously tasting fruit.
Isobel headed back into her house, ate her dinner and went to sleep that night dreaming of her mother. When she woke up, she didn’t feel any different and her day was the same as many other days. However, that night when she went to sing for her plant, she noticed something very unusual: Isobel could sing. Not just in an ordinary way, but singing that sounded every bit as beautiful as her mother had sounded. It felt strange to be singing so beautifully at first but, soon, Isobel did not want to stop. She sung so much, that she didn’t see the plant turning brown and dropping leaves before her with each note. It wasn’t until she opened her eyes and looked in front of her that she immediately stopped singing and stared at the now shrivelled plant curled up in the ceramic pot.
Burying her plant was the best way Isobel could think of to say good bye and to thank it for her new gift. Each night, she went out and knelt down beside the plant and sang a lullaby in her beautiful singing voice.’