I saw the look on Adam’s face as we turned the corner, and braced myself for the inevitable three-year-old’s howl. But it never came. His face just crumbled, which was so much worse than the expected howl, and I could barely hear the agonized whisper, “But how will we make wishes, Mom?”
Adam had seen his father walking across the yard with the spreader as soon as we turned onto our street, and knew that the weed killer he had been spreading onto the lawn was official now. He also knew one of the things it was guaranteed to eradicate was dandelions. Beautiful, yellow dandelions that popped their color against the bright green lawn, proof that the spring we’d waited so patiently for all winter and was finally here—had suddenly become the enemy.
All I could offer my son was the consolation that I agreed with his assessment of the situation. I love dandelions, too, always have, since my earliest childhood memories of making clover necklaces with my sisters in a cushiony bed of yellow dandelions in the orchard next to our grandfather’s house.
I loved them even more now, because three-year-old Adam picked them and ceremoniously brought them to me to put in a tiny vase on the windowsill so I could have the bright yellow offerings to look as I washed dishes. And, by the way, he was going to marry me when he grew up. That was always part of the strawberry stained mouth’s proclamation as he climbed the back steps to bring me my day’s dandelions.
Adam’s main concern was for the “puffers”—the long-stemmed dandelion wish-makers we picked once the yellow was gone. They were sacred because they came from our very own yard, the best place we could ever make wishes, the surest location if you wanted the wishes to come true. I had fashioned those tales and watched his eyes light up with the promise my words instilled in his heart. And now, the garden of promises was going to disappear.
I had tried to persuade my husband, John, to join me in the conspiracy, to be the one guy in the neighborhood who didn’t buckle to the pressure to have a perfectly green yard, free of the yellow culprits that every self-respecting homeowner knew were to be done away with.
But his even-paced, slow march back and forth across the yard was proof of the fact that I’d lost the argument. Our puffer wishes would have to be made outside our home boundaries, from dandelions left to proliferate in the common ground behind our yard.
How could those wishes possibly matter?
Adam trudged wearily up the driveway unable to speak to his father, his head down and his heart broken. He went into the backyard to drown his sorrow in the bounty sure to be found in the strawberry patch.
And I heard him whoop. That’s the only word that applies to the scream that came from his pudgy little three-year-old body.
“Mommy, come see!” he screamed as I raced to the gate. There, in the farthest corner of the yard, was the most glorious sight my eyes had ever been blessed to see. John had pegged off a large square of our yard, and carefully drawn string around the space to keep it Adam’s own private sanctuary. Free from weed killer, open to any dandelions that cared to make it their home, certainly the best place in the world to grow guaranteed wish-producing puffers.
My heart swelled with love for the father of my children who knew my soul so very well, and who cared for that soul so tenderly.
A little post-script to the story, if I may. Adam is now 41, the father of two girls with imaginations as big as the moon. In the very back corner of their yard stands a short picket-fenced square of land where dandelions and baby bunnies and dreams of every sort are welcomed.
I couldn’t have asked for a happier ending.