As I walked through my neighborhood during the shutdown, my mind went back to the days when Mama would take me on our daily walk to Flushing Main Street & Roosevelt. Nothing made these memories more vivid than seeing the “wish puffs” and the dandelions they create.
Mama never learned to drive. She never really had to. Born in The (Da) Bronx, raised in Brooklyn, raising my mother in Washington Heights then raising me in downtown Flushing, Queens, everything you need was within healthy walking distance. The few things that weren’t, the bus or subway would get you there. I, on the other hand, got my drivers license the minute i was able to. My long walks through downtown Flushing ended when I was 12 and my mother remarried. Obtaining my drivers license ended all my long neighborhood walks at 17. But the shutdown on COVID19 resurrected them. With the gyms being closed, I hit the pavement for exercise. However as with most things, when you slow down enough to become part of your surroundings, you receive much more than you anticipated.
Trekking through suburbia brought me back to my childhood days. My heart ached with a longing to reach out and hold Mama’s hand; the same hand that as a child I would work to wriggle free from so I could make my own way…but never too far from the safety of my Mama.
We were fortunate to have a stamp of grass in front of our 3-family home. When the weather got warm, the postage stamp of a yard would be filled with “wish puffs.” That’s what Mama told me they were. “You pick them then make a wish and blow until all the puffs are gone.” I swear I must’ve gotten to every single one. I can’t remember what any of my wishes were. I know that one more day, one more long walk with Mama, holding her hand tight this time, would be what i would wish today. But my days of blowing on wish puffs are long gone…and so is Mama.
Shortly after the wish puffs were gone, looking out from the front window of our third floor apartment, I would see our postage stamp dotted with sunshine. Mama told me that everywhere a wish landed would grow a dandelion. On our walks to Gertz on Roosevelt Avenue, i would see them growing through the cracks in the sidewalk. Grownups would walk right past, never even noticing them, sometimes even stepping on them. Yet the dandelion would remain and grow and show off her crown of sunshine in stark defiance of the gray around her.
Every day I would pick a bouquet and give them to Mama. I told her that dandelions were my most favorite flower. Mama laughed and explained that they weren’t flowers at all. They are weeds. People work very hard to get rid of them but hard as they try, the dandelions survive. I told her that I didn’t care what they were. Dandelions were still my most favorite.
In the decades that past, in all my reflection of my moments with Mama, I hadn’t thought of these until I slowed down and walk thru my suburbia.
To be carried by the breath of children’s wishes and to bloom wherever you land, whether a lush field or crack in a sidewalk in downtown Flushing. No need for constant care. The dandelion takes whatever amount of nourishment it can get and stakes it’s claim to its place in this world, becoming a force to be reckoned with while standing tall in a crown of gold. What a glorious thing to be.
That’s who I am… a Dandelion Girl.