When I was a kid, every time dandelions popped up in our yard, I would pluck every single one, hearing that familiar snap of the stem, smelling that earthy scent, feeling the sticky sap staining my fingers. When my little hands couldn’t hold any more, I’d hide the bouquet behind my back and head to the house.
I’d open the squeaky screen door and call out, “Close your eyes and hold out your hands, Mom. I have a surprise for you!”
“It’s not a snake, is it?” she’d ask as the screen door slammed behind me.
“No, it’s not a snake.”
It was a fair question to ask me. She hated snakes. Was absolutely terrified of them. And I’d caught a gardener once when playing with my neighbor. I was so proud of it. “Close your eyes and hold out your hands, Mom. I have a surprise for you!” I’d said. She opened her eyes … and screamed. My neighbor and I decided to keep it as a shared pet – at his house. Because … screaming.)
With the dandelion bouquet behind my back I’d say, “Now, don’t peek.” (Because I would have.)
“I won’t,” Mom would say. And she never did. She loved surprises. Well … except said snake.
I’d gently place the dandelions in her hands and say, “Okay. You can open your eyes.”
As soon as she did, she’d smile. That smile meant everything to me. She’d suffered deep depression for a decade or more after my dad died, so to see her smile made me feel like I was easing her pain. For at least a while.
“Oh, thank you!” Mom would say. “They’re beautiful!” Then she’d wrap her arms around me and hug me tight. I love them, and I love you.” She’d put them in water and display them in the living room with all the pride you would dozens of roses.
We were poor, so I didn’t have money to buy flowers. But she always had dandelions. As soon as I got my first job detasseling corn at 13, I started buying her flowers.
“Give me flowers when I’m alive to enjoy them, not when I’m dead,” she always said.
When I gave her 70 flowers for her 70th birthday, she told me they were beautiful and thanked me. Then she got quiet. “I miss all those dandelions, though. If you see some sometime, pick me a bouquet, okay?”
So I did.
When I told her to close her eyes and hold out her hands, she said, “It’s not a snake, is it?”
© Author Lisa Fipps. Do not copy or print any part of this without written permission from the author.