The Last Dandelion Bouquet

Memoirs of a Mama Bear

Brilliance. Staring into flashes of memory. My kids when they were little. My son as a baby, how warm his round head would get when he was sleeping. My daughter not even five, and obsessed with black and white scary movies. The excitement of picking Halloween costumes, and their small faces seeing Christmas presents under the tree. Them peering over my shoulder as I did homework, asking when I would finish and come play. Knock-knock jokes, peanut-butter-and-jelly, velcro light-up shoes. Summer nights with roasted marshmallows and lightning bugs, movies, and popcorn. So many bags of popcorn.

The snowsuits and skinned knees, the spilled milk, and tickles. Wishing upon stars. How their little faces would cringe and their chins dimple as they tried not to cry. The first time they learned how to tear the wrapping paper off of presents. Them sneaking around in the morning trying not to wake me up “Shh, don’t wake up Mom!” Their intent expression while reading the back of cereal boxes as sunlight streams in the kitchen. The birthdays and bedtime stories and pancake breakfasts. Missing mittens and forgotten lunch boxes. Watching them smile as they climbed onto the school bus for the first time, and how tiny they looked reaching up towards the rail. How the bus sounded as it roared away, and how I cried when they were gone.

My son, born strong, silent, and stoic. Dark brown eyes blinking at me as he was placed on my chest. My daughter came with a full head of raven-black hair, loud and cantankerous, eyes of the deepest navy blue. My son’s first smile. And his reaction to me celebrating that smile. My daughter’s first words aside from mama: “tickle, tickle”… whispered from her high chair with a mushy Cheerio stuck to her round cheek. 

The thousands of beautiful dandelion flower bouquets that I was gifted. Training wheels and then learning how to ride without them. Roller skates and scooters. The neighbor kids’ bikes laying all over the front yard and driveway. Letting them go for the first few (hundred) times: “… don’t forget — just to the stop sign and back — remember?”, and “… stay where you can see the house, ok?” Red or blue or purple-stained popsicle lips and eating the strawberries right out of my Aunt’s garden. Bullies and trouble with friends. Couch cuddles and snack time and cut up hot dogs. The sprinkler and playing with the hose. The first sleepovers and the hugs during pick up on the mornings after. The back door slamming from the constant in-and-out during ‘outside’ play. Laughing at Saturday morning cartoons and staying in pajamas all day. Falling into a pile of leaves on a warm autumn afternoon. Jumping higher because of new shoes. Hot chocolate, snowmen, and cold noses.

The ever-worn and ripped knees of my son’s pants from playing on the floor. The never-to-be-eradicated glitter fallen from my daughter’s headbands. Cold school day mornings, packing lunches, grapes, juice boxes, and Little Debbie snacks. Waking them up late to tell them it’s a snow day. Hot wheels, stuffed animals, dress-up clothes. Legos and crayons. Colored pages covering the refrigerator. Watching them pick gifts for their friends, the thought and effort for someone else energizing them. High school dances, prom, graduation, driver’s licenses. The moon following us on a night car ride. Checking under the bed for monsters and closing bedroom closet doors. Lost special blankets and late-night drinks of water. Their goofiness and grumpiness, the funny faces, and practical jokes. How excited they were when I came home from work. The hugs and enthusiasm, the sense that all was whole.

My daughter on stage at the choir concert, eyes bright under the stage lights. Looking back while driving and seeing their little heads resting against car windows, asleep on a long ride home. Making beds with clean sheets and tucking them in after a bath. The Friday night lights at my son’s high school football games “Go Warriors!” Stay-home sick days, their cheeks red as they napped in front of the TV on a blanket-covered couch. Playgrounds and swinging on the swingset, “Please Mom, just one more push…” Their inclination towards serious and difficult topics. How I wanted to shelter them but knew that I couldn’t. How carefully they listened as I spoke hard truths. How they sometimes spoke wisdom beyond their years. The moon reflecting in their eyes as they looked at the night sky and told me how much they loved the mystery of outer space. Their little voices telling me “I love you” as they glowed- meaning it with every atom of their being.

Childhood is gone so quickly that it takes a moment to even realize that it is gone. It seems never-ending from the middle of the story, from inside the day-to-day. Only in hindsight, can I see that I had chances to do better… perhaps because we always think we have time. We don’t realize when the last of something is happening. I don’t remember when I was given my last dandelion bouquet. When my daughter gets home from work, I will ask her to surprise me with one someday. She will roll her eyes and smile. And that will make me smile. Looking back, it’s a blur, a whirlwind. A fraction of time. A fraction of their lives — and just a fraction of mine, really. For only one split second, they were mine. 

*Photo by Herbert Goetsch on Unsplash

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