Monday, April 16

Mama Had a Baby

I posted this photo of my daughter on our family website last week, and my mother-in-law responded saying, among other things, "...I have always loved dandelions and thought they got a bum rap from society at large...."

I couldn't agree more. I love dandelions; the little bright spots of color popping out of the grass. Cheery little bits of sunshine. Explosions of summer on the lawn.

I know master gardeners and lawn aficionados do not join me in the applause for the happy little flower. I understand that in the book of great gardens, a dandelion has no place. I get that it's a weed. But darn it, it's the prettiest little weed on the planet.
As a matter of fact, if you had told me that dandelions were weeds when I was a young'un, I would never, could never have believed you. I used to spend hours in the fields near home picking gobs of dandelions and then sitting in the grass with a lapful of flowers while I patiently, methodically weaved stems together to create perfect dandelion crowns. Adorning my head in the decadent yellow actually made me feel like a princess. I loved it immensely.

In the late spring months in Salt Lake City, Utah when the dandelions were out in full force my friends and I used to make dandelion jewelry during our recess breaks at school. Given the decade, our youth, and the State I grew up in, we knew little of piercing anything other than ears so our jewelry weaving was limited to decorating heads, arms and ankles. To my knowledge no one among us ever tried to thrust a dandelion stem through a nose or a tongue. There may well have been a belly button decoration once or twice, after all we were a generation raised on I Dream of Jeannie. Once fully bejeweled we entered the world of our imaginative play. The group of us had concocted an elaborate game about ANCIENT ISLANDERS who WORSHIPPED the ancient gods. One of us, usually me, would be the goddess and the others would assume the role of humble goddess worshipper. The being of greatness would sit on a rock or a tree stump looking down on the humans and they in turn would prostrate themselves on the ground, gyrating in undulating motion, arms waving and chant "O Holy MOON-SUN god". But to be totally honest about it we were all a little nervous about the sin attached to using the name G-O-D and thus opted for the wholly benign "O Holy MOON-SUN Gosh" instead. This satisfied all players that the ancient goddess would understand the substitution and we would avoid offending the big guy upstairs or more likely the eavesdropping third graders who were bound to report us.

We played other games too. My older brothers taught me the tortuous rhyme "my mama had a baby and it's head popped off" which we would chant after picking up dandelions and upon the "head popped off" line would place a thumb just under the base of the flower and with applied force flick the top of the dandelion from the stem. The flower would fly up with a satisfying force before succumbing to the gravitational pull of the earth and land with a thud at our feet. My mother ALWAYS protested this game. I didn't get that at the time, but it comes to me clearly now just how morose and macabre the silly play was. I have never passed on the tradition to my kids. I wonder if my brothers have to theirs?
The greatest joy of course was finding a wishing flower; the dandelion gone to seed and forming a perfect sphere of fluffy whiteness. Tenderly I would pluck this treasure from the ground, being very careful not to upset a single seed and send it flying before its time. I then would close my eyes, squeezing them tightly, and WISH. I can't tell you what I wished for, because if you tell a wish it doesn't come true. But I wished for some glorious things every chance I got. Wishing complete, I would open my eyes and BLOW; the tiny seeds released from the center post gracefully floating, swirling, sweeping through the air. Off and on the way to retrieve the secret desires I had placed among them. Oh, how I loved to watch these gatherers of my hopes dancing away.

To this day I remain a big fan of the dandelion. I suppose it would still be a difficult sell to convince me that they are anything other than brilliant spots of inspiration and sweet memories. And while I am on this point, I should mention that I take my hat off to the resilience of the wonder weed. More often than not, I see the plants making their way up through the cracks in a sidewalk or a bursting out of a brick fence. To flourish like that under difficult circumstances is something that absolutely commands respect.

Truly, something to aspire to.


  1. I never understood why my Mom wouldn't put the bouquets of dandelions I picked into a vase.

  2. I love this piece! The writing, the memories and the photos work so well together.

    Our church service was lay-led (we're "between ministers") and the fellow who spoke is a real environmentalist. He talked about how the American obsession for the perfect yard is destroying yet another habitat. I think I'll start a family campaign to embrace the dandelion.

  3. This is just a lovely post. I remember the countless days we sat in the yard and made beautiful yellow necklaces. Such warm memories.

    Take care,

  4. jenn- me too!

    smid- thanks. this one has been bubbling in my brain for awhile and the second I snapped that photo of my daughter last weekend, I knew how I could put it together.
    I am all for a LOVE THE WEED campaign. I will help make placards and fliers!

    connie- I appreciate your kind words. Memory is just one of my favorite places to spend time...

  5. I thought I was the dandelions biggest fan. I let them take over our yard last year in our otherwise neat and tidy neighborhood, I had to let them have their day. . but this year, I will control them more - maybe. . . I love to pass the fields full of them. I saw few all those years in FL so WA is a treat for me.
    I had posted somewhere a photo of one lone dandelion in a field of tulips.

  6. marcia-
    wow. I would love to see the dandelion in a field of tulips! that's just a perfect idea...
    as to whether you should control the dandelions this year. I know you probably should, but do you really want to?

  7. What a great post!

  8. Beautiful post, Jenn -- I love this bit of memoir from you.

    We let the dandelions take over our fields. M. won't even mow until they've all gone to seed. He once sent a jug of homemade dandelion wine to Ray Bradbury.

  9. This is lovely, Jenn. It brings so many things to mind - summers, childhood and outcasts. I loved the games you described playing as a kid.

  10. This could have been me. I could have written this post--except I wouldn't have written it nearly so well, of course. But I have always had a big thing for dandelions. Still do! And the pic of your daughter is GORGEOUS, by the way.

  11. I am doing the 365 project (where you take a picture a day) and my picture today was dandelions. My caption was "momma had a baby and it's head popped off" because I too did this as a child! So I googled it, because I was curious where it came from. That is how I came across your blog. I smiled at this entry, and it touched me enough to share this comment with you! So thank you! (I've left the url of my photo in case you're curious too!)