When I was a kid, I spent a lot of time admiring dandelions. I remember people telling me over and over that they were just weeds, nothing special, but I loved them just the same. They’re a sign – winter is over, spring is here. And suddenly, the cold and the grey is gone and is replaced with this over abundance of yellow that’s just everywhere. I can remember sitting in class in June, antsy and absentminded, daydreaming of sunshine with flip flops on my feet as I listened to the lawn mowers outside on the baseball fields. The smell of grass.
Some people eat them, most people hate them, I would make flower crowns out of them. I can remember laying in fields of them. One of my favorite places to hang out as a child were hay fields because the grass was tall enough to hide in, the perfect place to escape. My friends and I would sneak out, carefully crafting flower crowns and sashes with our sticky dandelion fingers, only to watch them wilt two hours later. But it didn’t matter, I loved those yellow halos.
My father was always a little bit OCD about his lawns. We weren’t allowed to ride our bikes, four wheelers, little red wagons, or Tonka Trucks across the grass, the lines ruined his perfectly manicured masterpiece. If he was desperate enough that he needed someone to mow the lawn for him then he would draw us careful maps of the front yard, arrows marking where the tires needed to go – when to mow right, and when we needed to switch to the left. He would arrive home, give us a tight reassuring smile, and shortly after we’d hear the lawn mower fire up only to see him bobbing across the lawn, fixing what we mistakenly messed up. But I didn’t mind, it was his thing and we all knew it.
He would always groan about the dandelions, swearing that just by mowing over them it would cause them to multiply, almost like a game. Secretly, I think he liked them, because it meant that he could be outside, that we were no longer cooped up inside like prisoners of the winter. We have a lot in common; when the sun is out, so are we. Every summer we compare our brown eyes and matching tans, always competing to see who is darker. He always wins. If I miss a call in the summer, he always explains to people that it’s probably because I’m outside; tanning or swimming, walking or exploring the ocean, drinking iced coffee or walking through the grass in my bare feet. He’s always right.
I remember being really small and holding bright yellow bunches of dandelions up to my chin, my siblings deciding whether or not I liked butter. We’d run around the yard with bright yellow painted on our bodies like spring warriors, pop off the tops while we chanted out rhymes, blowing our wishes out into the wind.
I don’t know if there will ever be a time when I won’t see that part of spring and immediately think of Dad. Of him planting bulbs on his hands and knees, bringing tractor loads of mulch over to the front yard, putting shovelfuls around the house, trees and bushes strewn throughout the yard. Starting in February he would begin creating his gardens for the spring, random assortments of lists and seeds, sketches and rows of vegetables, roses, daisy’s, lilacs sure to bloom in May. He’d inevitably lose it, and start a new one. By May you’d never know what to expect. By April we would be raking the yard, picking up rocks and sticks on bribes and $5 bills hidden from our mother, the promise of penny candy from the store down the road.
I don’t know if a single spring will ever go by where I don’t smile when I see them, appreciate the vibrance after such a colorless winter, grin when I try desperately to rid them from the front yard.
I think that the best thing about dandelions is that they’re a symbol of hope. Of happiness and warmth, a bright light. You pick one up and a thousand more seeds go all around, in every single direction before you’ve even had a chance to make a wish. They’re stubborn, they refuse to leave.
They will never, ever be forgotten, it’s demanded.