Sunday, May 25, 2008

Wife Rule #51: Dandelion Whine

One of my wife's friends gave us a rather unusual wedding present: three small, glass vases, about three inches high. With the vases was a note that said something like this: "When I was a little girl, I used to pick dandelions and give them to my mom. She would put them in tiny glass vases like these. I know it's a little early, but I wanted you to have some vases ready so that someday, when you have little girls, you will have a place to put the dandelions they pick for you."

Charming notion. Over ten years later now, that sentimental gift has indeed been used as my wife's friend intended. My wife has been the recipient of many bestowals of dandelions, picked fresh from our lawn, and given with love from our adoring children.

There's just one problem with all of this: I detest dandelions.

Not my children giving them--that's all well and cute--but I resent the very existence of dandelions. To me, they are the poster-child species of the Noxious Weed category of plant life on this earth. They pop up out of nowhere, they multiply like crazy, and it takes a LOT of effort to eradicate them once they become established. They are the cockroaches of suburban flora.

This spring, the dandelions in my yard got an extra leg up on us, for two reasons. The first is that it has been unseasonably wet and cool. The second is that the birth of our fifth child coincided with the optimal time to spray dandelions, which is after they are big enough to easily spot in the grass, but before their nauseatingly-merry, stupid little yellow flowers turn into puff-ball landmines of reproductive potential. Thus, while we were fully into sleep-deprived-new-parent-zombie-survival-mode, the weeds outside were throwing wild parties, drinking too much, and multiplying with reckless abandon--a miniature Woodstock in our lawn.

The rainy weather also contributed to preventing me from breaking out the lawn mower. So it was that I watched out the window with growing anxiety and mounting feelings of helplessness as the dandelion stalks in my lawn grew taller and taller in our grass. The puff-balls of fluffy white parachutes for the seeds had ascended to optimal position for the frequent breezes to carry them into every nook and cranny of our yard. It was too late to spray this generation; the damage had already been done.

When I finally mowed for the first time I used the grass-catcher bag, which I almost never do, in a vain effort to vacuum up as many dandelion seeds as possible and reduce my future spraying job. The lawn was so long at this point that I filled three times as many bags as usual, but all to no avail. In the process of running over the seed stalks, bending them to the point that the blade could cut them, all the seeds were inevitably dislodged. The breeze picked them up in great swirling clouds, and it soon seemed as if I was mowing the lawn in a blizzard--with those despicably-downy seeds gently lodging themselves where I had just mowed, in our flower beds, in our window screens, in my hair, in my eyes, in my ears, and for all I know, invading bodily places where they absolutely had no business in going. Dandelions apparently don't understand about personal space.

I thought a lot about dandelions that day. I remembered reading a book in junior high school called Dandelion Wine, by Ray Bradbury, which as I recall cast dandelions in somewhat of a back-to-basics, childhood-nostalgia light. I don't know whether Dandelion Wine is considered one of "The Classics" (definition: a book that would never sell if your English teacher didn't make it required reading), but I know other books by Ray Bradbury are in this category. This memory, in the current context, only confirmed my long-held suspicions that most of the authors of "The Classics" were sickos.

And then I had sort of a realization. The little yellow flowers in the lawn, and the noxious flurry of dandelion spawn swirling around me, though failing to conjure up childhood nostalgia for me, as it did for Ray Bradbury or my wife's friend, did have some symbolic meaning in my life. You see, the dandelions in my yard are the consequences of decisions my wife and I have made over the years: decisions to marry, to have one child, then another, and another, and another, and finally, to have our most recent addition. Each child added to our family bouquet is a serious commitment, a precious soul that Heaven has entrusted to our care here on earth. And with each of these most precious assets we have gained, we have had to sacrifice a little bit more.

I thought about the sweet little round pink face of our newest addition, her wild hair sticking out in every direction, her tiny fists curled around my finger as she looks penetratingly into my eyes, and then I thought about dandelions. I was reminded of the story of Jesus visiting Mary and Martha:

Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house.

And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word.

But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me.

And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things:

But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her. (Luke 10:38-42)

Mary chose to spend time hearing the Savior speak rather than serving dinner. Wasn't choosing my little children, who are like the Savior in so many ways, also a more noble cause than my personal jihad against dandelions? Perhaps, in the midst of my mowing, I realized that I too had "chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from [me.]" After all, no matter how diligently I spray, there will always be another crop of dandelions to battle, but my time with my children is precious and limited.

Besides, if I killed all the dandelions, what would my children put in the vases?


Jenny and Al said...

Dandelion Wine is actually pretty good. I read it again after high school. Thanks for your post. I hope that the Buddy picks me dandelions someday, too.

chelse said...

that was awesome. sometimes i wish i was in your brain. I think you could take any subject in the world and tie it to the gospel. maybe you should try..... talk about dump trucks!

LuckyMatt said...

Hmm, good idea, Chelse. Maybe I'll give it a try!