From Chicken Soup for the Working Mom's Soul

Dandelions and My Little Samantha

Unless the rains came early, we did the same thing every workday morning for thirty-three mornings. First, we’d set up the stroller. Second, we’d load it up with a handful of animal crackers, a baby bottle of milk, and a one-year-old granddaughter. Next, we’d head out the front door to travel the mile from her house to my house. Then, as we’d slowly traverse the muggy Florida neighborhood, we’d gather dandelions growing in some of the lawns along the way.

What incredible joy these happy yellow weeds inspired in us! Samantha, my little princess, would squeal with delight whenever we saw a yellow flower bobbing in the distance, and I, a fifty-six-year-old English teacher on hiatus for the summer, would practically melt with happiness at the sight of this child awash in golden morning sunlight.

Samantha couldn’t wait for me to place a fresh-picked stem into her hand, and by the time we arrived at our destination, she would have thoroughly examined, tasted, and eventually mauled many little flowers that we had collected along the way.

As the summer progressed, so did our discoveries. Soon we examined pinecones from the nearby trees, abandoned pennies left on the sidewalk, and bugs and snails that crossed our path. We learned to mimic birdsongs and to creep past magnificent white herons that often landed in yards to feast on the plentiful lizards and frogs.

The breezes were like heavenly kisses that cooled our warming faces. Even when it is still early in the day, the Florida heat becomes oppressive; that is why we really appreciated the pleasant shade of the magnolia tree that spread its huge canopy over my backyard.

When we arrived at this, our destination, we had other things to discover—wind chimes that filled our air with soft sound, dirt and pots and flowers that needed to be put together by big and tiny hands, and kitty cats that just barely tolerated little girl investigations. Samantha enjoyed such adventure in this ordinary place under my adoring watch.

However, these wonderful activities had a bittersweet quality to them. I had been a working mother and felt that I had missed too many childhood miracles of my own children as I sought to put a roof over their heads and food in their stomachs. It is such a difficult dilemma for most women in the United States—in order to have children, you have to work, and in order to work, you let others spend the time with your children that you crave for yourself.

I remembered those bone-tired evenings when I came home and wanted only to plop down in front of the television so that I might rest a few minutes. I remember the guilt I felt that my children were getting only the “leftover me.” What I didn’t understand then was that children don’t want lavish attention, expensive things, or extravagant vacations. All they really want is a small portion of time filled with meaningful interaction.

Dandelions, pinecones, or sugar maple burrs become childhood currency, and parents willing to rest outside in a lawn chair to watch children’s games instead television, or parents willing get down on the living room floor to become a mountain to be crawled upon: these parents are a true treasure.

I have spent my adult life as a teacher of literature, and I suspect that is because my mother read to me every night before I went to sleep. Winnie the Pooh, Mary Poppins, The Wizard of Oz, The Arabian Nights: these were her legacy to me—these magical excursions into fantasy.

I read to my daughter when she was young, and she now reads to Samantha, even before this little soul could speak many words of her language. Something more than reading skills were transmitted across the generations, though. We were and are sharing time together, and this was and will be the “sticking place” in our hearts. This is the “tie that binds”—a memory of time shared that has shaped who we are and will shape who we will become.

Working parents simply need to make little special times happen whenever possible—a game of catch here, a romp through the sprinkler there, a game of hide-and-seek before supper, or a quilt tent-fort built in the dining room. These are the little moments that matter most to us in life. Just because they don’t cost a fortune or take forever to prepare doesn’t mean that they are unworthy, quite the contrary.

In the end, I bet it is the “dandelion moment” that will be my legacy to Samantha. It will be a subconscious thing, I would imagine. For some reason she will always have a tender feeling whenever she sees a summer morning with yards filled with yellow blossoms. And who knows? She might just want to become a botanist. In any case, she will have had these wonderful mornings with her grandmother, and that, as did “the road less traveled,” may make all the difference.

Dorothy K. Fletcher

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