I had it all in my head this morning. I knew exactly what I wanted to write about, even if I didn’t have the details. That is, until I read my Best-Friend-Blogger’s post this morning, and that’s when I knew I must change directions. That’s the way it sometimes works for me: the details flow through my fingers when I’m not paying attention, and I focus on a weed.
When I was a little girl, the pastures were full of flowers: Milkweed, clover, grasses, mustard, coffee, dandelions, cornflower, picker bushes, rambling rose, and Queen Anne’s Lace. Me and Bonita and Vickie went on adventures in those fields. Every step was full of different smells and tastes. Of course we tasted things. Mom told us we could die or get a stomach ache. We never did.
Clover grew way down low under the clothesline. Deanna tried to find a four-leaf clover, ’cause that was good luck. My Aunt Annie showed the one she found to Deanna, which is what got Deanna started wanting one of her own. Deanna wanted to do everyting Aunt Annie did. Aunt Annie had her lucky clover pressed in wax paper and locked inside her diary, so nobody could see or touch it unless she wanted them to. Deanna had a diary, too.
I tried to look for four-leaf clover with Deanna, but my legs got twitching and wanted to move me somewhere else. Instead, I showed Bonita how to pull the purple petals super-gently out of the clover flower, so the green part got left behind. We could suck all the nectar out of the flower that way.
“That’s what the bees are after,” I told Bonita. “Isn’t that just the best? They chew it all up and swallow it. When they get back to the hive, they poop it out into honey the honey combs.”
Dad loved honey straight from the comb. Most the time, we just got it from a jar. Mom was never so keen on honey. She said she had her fill of bread and honey during the Great Depression, ’cause Grandma and Grandpa had beehive, so they had honey and bread every single day.
“Yuck-o,” Bonita said after I told her how the bees made honey. “I’m never eating honey again.”
“Why?” I never could figure out Bonita’s squeamish stomach. “It’s a miracle.” I’m pretty sure Bonita did eat honey again, and she liked to suck on the clover nectar, too. Wild wheat grass had that same sort of sweetness at the bottom of the stem. Dad showed me how to pull it out slow, so the stem slipped out of the sheath, then the end was sweet and tender. Otherwise, the stem was bitter and tough, like an old piece of hay.
Dad said dandelion greens were great to eat, too, but he was wrong about that. Sometimes Mom cooked the greens like spinach, sometimes he ate them raw like a salad. Those things were bitter and dee-scusting. Dad said dandelion greens and puff-balls were a delicacy, and some people even make wine from dandelions. I never tasted wine before. Anyways, whenever Mom cooked up dandelion greens, Dad sat at the table grinning like he was a king at a feast, and I sat with one hand holding my nose, and my other one dangling the fork in the greens.
Dad ate dandelion greens all the time during the Great Depression. I guessed once you get used to bitter things you like them forever, and sweet stuff, like honey gets sickening after too much. Still, if I grew up during the Great Depression, I’d rather I lived at Grandma Z’s house and was forced to eat honey everyday.
I stayed a mile away from picker bushes and rambling rose. They smelled good, but those things were sneaky and wicked, like a witch thought them up. Pickers and roses had the most beautiful flowers, but never try to pick them; you will get picked and poked and scratched until the other side of tomorrow. Sometimes, I got in the roses, before I knew they were there, ’cause they grow wild and close to the ground, and all over old fences and in between other stuff. Mom said the Extension Office told people to plant rambling roses between fields, so the fields wouldn’t blow away like they did in the dust bowl. That’s another thing that happened during the Great Depression. Man-o-man, the olden days were tough.
Milkweed and mustard and coffee just looked like those things. Sometimes we made up names, and everybody knew what they were, ’cause that’s what everybody called them. Milkweed had milky stuff coming out of it if you broke off a pod, but it was bitter as all get out. I could smell the bitter before I even tried tasting it. Coffee had pods of brown at the top. Mom said that was sumac, but we called it coffee anyways. I never tried tasting it, ’cause Mom and Dad drank coffee every morning, and it smelled bad. Dad said coffee would stunt my growth, and I had to wait until I was tall, before I could have any. A field of wild mustard, just looked like God had a big bottle of French’s mustard and spread it all over the field. It was the most beautiful yellow in the whole wide world.
Queen Anne’s Lace and cornflowers was the best flower ever. Mom loved cornflower. She wanted a set of dishes with one single cornflower on it. Sort of like those special glass dishes that can go straight from the refrigerator to the oven and back it the refrigerator. Those were the berried, ’cause they cut down on the amount of dishes I had to was when it was my turn.
Anyways, both Queen Anne’s Lace and cornflower were nothing at all to look at before they bloomed. They were just green sticks, poking up in the dirt. Then the blossoms came out and lit up the world. Cornflowers stuck out of the stems in every directions, turning everything blue and beautiful. Queen Anne’s lace looked like a wild carrot before it bloomed. Over night, presto-chango, the blossom looked like something Grandma C made with her tinsy-tiny crochet hook. That stuff she called tatting. I never saw anything so beautiful. When those two flowers lit up the same field, it was like looking a heaven.
I still love all those ‘weeds,’ and I let them grow among my flowers. Well, some of them. Except the thistles (aka picker bushes), and the rambling rose. Even though I still like the way they look, they are now considered ‘nuisance’ plants and it’s illegal to let them grow. Still and all, it tickles me to think about getting thrown in jail because I let a picker bush grow.
Queen Anne’s Lace is still one of my favorites. Especially, now that I know the little dark spot in the middle is supposed to be a drop of blood from Queen Anne’s sewing needle as she made lace. There is so much mystery in life and legend.
Queen Anne’s Lace still makes me think of Grandma. I love showing my own kids how to put them in colored water and transform the white into a rainbow.
Today, I have a brand new memory to hold. Each time I see the Queen Anne’s lace blooming, I will think of growing children, watching them “blossom” and the grace in letting go.
From Dandilions to Queen Anne’s Lace – A Mother’s Letter To Her Daughter (Journey towards Epiphany)
- Drop of Blood (dustafterrain.wordpress.com)
- Edible Flower Chart and Recipes (cubbyholes.wordpress.com)
- Cry-Baby Me (oncealittlegirl.com)
- Liquid Gold: A Beekeeper’s Story (karenpavonesfoodforthought.com)
- The Hope of A Child (aninspiredapproach.com)