A Dandelion Day

A Dandelion Day April 23, 2024

a white dandelion in closeup
image via Pixabay

I woke up in a mood.

The anxiety is still nagging. It comes and goes. The tax rebate hadn’t come in yet, even though we’d already mailed the rent, and the amount of the rebate won’t cover both the rent and the water bill that was due Tuesday the way we’d planned. That was going to be a mess. I’ve still got to fill out my student debt paperwork for some of the Biden changes, and that always fills me with panic. The deadline for the Lives of the Saints project is looming and I still have two saints left.  I hadn’t slept well the night before. When I finally drifted off it was seven o’clock and Adrienne was leaving for school. I had nightmares about my tyrant aunt yelling at me and trying to steal my car. When I woke up, it was noon. Half the day had been wasted on a nightmare.

Downstairs, in the mailbox, there was no federal tax rebate. There was, however, a bill for the remainder of 2022’s taxes and a second bill for the 2023 and estimated 2024 taxes from the municipal tax department. Municipal taxes don’t care if you have children or an earned income tax credit. They just skim a percentage off the top. With what it costs to live within Steubenville city limits, you’d think they could at least pave the potholes.

I drank my coffee in a horrible mood. The next thing I knew I was picking up Adrienne from school. I felt so upset that I shooed her into the house, intending to drive downtown to have a cry, But I ended up crying in the car.

Then I got out of the car, and walked around back to the garden.

Michael brought out Lady McFluff and  started helping me pull weeds.

There was a line of spring onions sprouting in front of me and two lines of spring pea plants popping out of the soil like mattress springs. The strawberries were sprawling out of their patch, blossoming. The lilac at the back of the garden was glorious, but I didn’t grow that myself. It just came with the building. The grass was green and high, dotted with clover, dandelions and violets. My grandfather, the brilliant gardener, would have disapproved. He liked a pristine lawn between his flowerbeds. But Grandfather didn’t have a guinea pig. Lady McFluff loves flowers as much as I do, though I don’t usually eat them. She went under the laundry basket to graze while we weeded.

As I pulled weeds, I realized that six or seven of the little shoots coming out of the garden soil were actually sunflowers. I’d left my sunflowers to dry out and die on the stalk last year, so the birds could enjoy them. I loved the orioles who would come close to the house if they could eat the sunflower seeds. Now I had at least half a dozen volunteer sunflowers, Lemon Queens and Autumn Beauties, growing wild.

I decided not to weed them. I’d dig them out gently and plant them on top of that lovely soil that hadn’t produced any daffodils– a bit crowded, but otherwise safe. The planters would be easy to drag into the foyer for the night if we had a frost.

There were seeds for a great big beautiful Mammoth Gray Stripe sunflower in my house– that was too big for the planter. I could plant those at the corners of the garden like living fence posts. I could also dig up the ivy around the electrical pole and plant some sunflowers there, which would be prettier to look at than ivy.  I could fill the ugly planter flush up against the house, where nothing ever does very well, with even more sunflowers, since sunflowers are so easy to grow. That would leave me room for the bush watermelon and the sand cherries, the summer squash and the tomatoes, even though the yard is small.

I scooped the haystack of weeds Michael and I had made onto the compost and realized that I’d misplaced my angry mood.

It would cost more to make this house nice again than to buy it, at LaBelle prices, but I wanted to try it anyway. If I won the lottery, I’d make a deal with the landlord to own the house myself.

I said as much to Michael, who said practical grown-up things about how the house needed to be gutted, but I wanted to try it anyway. I’d take the family to the beach for six weeks while workmen fixed up the house– shoring up the basement walls, putting in a new electrical system and a central air conditioner. They could rip out all that horrible wood paneling and give me real walls, and tear up the stained carpet and give me a bamboo floor. Perhaps I’d buy the stalking neighbor’s haunted house as well, and demolish it, and put in an orchard where she used to chain her dog. We could keep something suitably noisy in a coop where the house had been– chickens, perhaps, or ducks. Surely ducks could exorcize a ghost. They’re noisy enough.

I blew the fluff off of a dandelion.

I like it here.

I want to stay. I would stay even if I was rich. I’d change quite a bit, but I’d stay.

I went in to grab my dinner before I had to take Adrienne to soccer practice, but I’d barely sat down when there  was an odd tapping at the door.

Adrienne went to investigate, and found Jimmy’s boy knocking, not with his hand but with a plastic shovel.

He said he’d just been to Dollar Tree with his father, and he bought sand toys to play with. They were not for his house but for my house, for Adrienne’s old sandbox, so he’d always have the tools to make a castle with me whenever he dropped by.

I thanked him as excitedly as I knew how. I said I didn’t have time to play just now, but we could test out the bucket once before I had to get ready for soccer practice.

And then he reached into his Dollar Tree bag, and pulled out a new grown-up gardening spade. “This is for you!”

I lauded the gift to Heaven and back.

Outside, he showed me the bucket he’d bought, which was castle-shaped. We packed it with old wet sand and turned it upside down together. He hit the top of it with his shovel a few times for good measure. I said “one, two, three!” and lifted just as Jimmy came around the corner to see where the boy had run to.

There was a perfect castle with square walls and four towers, in Adrienne’s own sandbox.

And I have a perfect castle here in Appalachia.

And somehow I feel as if things can work out.

When have I ever said that?

Miracles do happen.



Mary Pezzulo is the author of Meditations on the Way of the Cross, The Sorrows and Joys of Mary, and Stumbling into Grace: How We Meet God in Tiny Works of Mercy.

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