Springtime…And A Young Girl’s Heart

It’s springtime.  The season when winter eases its chokehold, the ground softens making way for new growth.  Buds burst open and leaves unfurl as young flowers mature into their blossoms.

Nestled together in the garden, it’s not long before the inevitable comparisons arise.  Each amazing and breathtaking in their own right, they can’t help but wonder how they measure up against the whole.

“Are my petals too plump?

“Do these leaves make my bottom look wide?”

Of course not.  You’re beautiful.

“You’re just saying that because you’re my gardener, aren’t you?”

Then it happens.  The handsome stranger strolls along and spritzs the crowd with a mist of attention.  The bed goes crazy.  Everyone brightens, arching further toward the admirer, each hoping to be noticed.  “Pick me.  Pick me!”

He leans over and plucks you by the stem, taking you home for his own.  You’ve been chosen as the most beautiful bloom, a stand out among the crowd, worthy of being taken home for display.

But you despair.  You’re alone.  You find yourself perched on a pedestal.  No longer surrounded by your colorful counterparts, once admired by many, you’re now occupied by one.  Passersby gawk and exclaim, but rarely linger.  Why would they?

You’re taken.  Chosen.

You glance around, and wonder, “What are the others doing?” Are they basking in the sun?  Adorned by bees and butterflies?  Or swaying to the breeze, wild and free.

Why so sad?  Isn’t this what you wanted?  Weren’t you feeling cramped, lost among the cluster of your peers?  Didn’t you yearn to be deemed most lovely?  Most desirable?

Well, sure…in so many words.  We all want to be “picked,” cherished as the most beautiful, perfect creation of all.   Doesn’t it follow that we should be ecstatic when clipped free from the crowd?  Aren’t we supposed to be happy?

Yes and no.  If your petals were chosen to express love, then yes.  But if they were chosen to be displayed like a trophy…then no.  What’s the point?

Odd to compare girls to flowers, I know.  But as my daughter grows and blossoms, I can’t help but see the similarities.  While toiling away in the garden, weeding and pruning, mulching and fertilizing, I feel a swell of anticipation —  it’s spring!  The time for renewal and growth, blossoms and beauty –

And my daughter’s birthday.  Time passes so quickly, she’s maturing so fast.  It seems like only yesterday she was a little girl.  But now, she’s heading toward adolescence and the change is remarkable.  She’s blossoming toward her teenage years, flowering into womanhood.

And I worry.  She’s feeling the pinch of the crowd, the snip of comparison.  How do I reassure her of her glorious and unique qualities?  Remind her she is an extraordinary, oxygen-breathing, life-creating creature to behold?  An integral piece in the cycle of life?

I want to tell her: rejoice in your color and shape.  Embrace the length of your stems, the breadth of your petals.  While they may differ from others, they all work the same.  Ultimately, our physical parts all perform the same tasks.

Yes, indulge in the sunshine, reach for the sky, bask in the attention of your admirers — but be wary the gardener interested in clipping your beauty for his own.  If your blooms must be taken, aim for love.  A rose shared between hearts lasts a lifetime.  Cuttings die within days.

Consider instead, the bees.  They’re willing to work hard for your nectar!  As opposed to being selfish, their goal is worthy; seeking the highest and best good.  I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with the gardener willing to spritz you with attention, just keep in mind some spritzers carry toxic substances.  At first glance, they appear harmless, but upon closer inspection the poison is revealed.  But then again, my sweet, you were so focused on being noticed…

Please.  Take your time.  Allow nature to take its course.  You’ll be happier in the end.

Field of Wildflowers

Have you ever seen anything more beautiful than a field of wildflowers?   Have you ever driven along a country highway, struck by nature, overwhelmed with the sudden urge to pull off the road and simply enjoy? 

Okay, this does happen a LOT in Wyoming, where the mere glimpse of wildlife can send your brake pedal crashing to the floor (hopefully that’s the only thing crashing), but I find a field of wildflowers can stop me in my tracks.   Much safer, too.   Moose and buffalo can be so unpredictable.

But here in Florida, there are no enormous animals to consider, so long as you stay out of the water, only flowers — wildflowers that blanket the roadsides, filling the landscape with the breath of spring.   Winter has eased its pinch, warm days and cool nights filling out the month of April.   I used to think fall was my favorite season, but now, I’m second guessing that notion. 

My garden is chock full of new plantings, my backyard is covered in wildflowers (seeds scattered by myself and the kids three years ago but now completely self-proliferating), and my jasmine are bursting with blossoms.   Bees literally follow me from garden to jasmine, past berries and buds, as if they don’t know which nectar they want next! 

It occurs to me life is in full swing.   The birds and the bees are doing their thing — the birds choosing to “take” from the fruit of my labors as where the bees tend to “give,” but they are instinctual little beasts and do as they were born to do.

Much like my sweet children.   As they grow, it’s becoming more and more apparent I will be walking down the path of most resistance, lurking in their shadows as they struggle through adolescence. 

Today, they still enjoy the simple pleasures of posing for pictures in the field of wildflowers.   But I can see the writing in the sky.

They want to blend in.

They want to be like their friends. 

Unlike our conversations of the past, where standing out from the crowd and being your own person were concepts they embraced, I now see the threads of homogeneous thought weaving silently through their minds. 

Sure, it’s okay if that kid’s different, but not me.   Not you

We can’t be different.   We can’t be unique.   No, no. 

“Mom, you’re embarrassing me.”   “Mom, whatever you do, don’t say anything to Coach.”   “Mom, you’re not funny.”

“I’m not?”   I glance around my person, as though expecting to find lifeline tossed my way.   “Are you sure?”   I thrust hands to my hips.   “You used to think it was fun when I honked at you on the playground, or waved at you during class.” 

I paused, glancing around the yard.   “Or danced in our field of wildflowers…”

Groan, grunt, grimace.   Arms fly across their chest as they reply in unison, “Not anymore.”

Not anymore, I murmur under my breath, and drop my gaze to the ground.   Not anymore

Lifting my head, I look at them more closely.   All legs and arms, long and lanky, smart as whips and filled with attitude I realize, no, I imagine not.   It’s easy to see you’re growing up (way too fast) and duly falling into line with your peers (sad but true).   I know you can see the beauty in this field as well as I can, but you’re focused on the reds and pinks, the subtle blend of harmony they create when clustered together. 

Those little white flowers over there…   Where you can appreciate them, you don’t want to be them. 

I understand.   It’s normal.   Especially, for my daughter.   She’s closer to the bewitching age than my son, but he’s right behind her..   His ears burn as hot as hers do when the lips start flappin and the gums start smackin.   From the classroom to the playground and everywhere in between, kids are sensitive to the shades of gray.   They’re not ready to stand up to that kind of scrutiny.

I understand.   As I immerse myself in this gift of spring, this once a season treat, this glorious field of diverse color, I realize the effect is mostly lost upon the younger set.   Where I see a gorgeous palette of subtle blends, I also delight in zeroing in on the standouts.   Those that leap out at me.

But I’m an adult.   I’ve outgrown the pressure from my peers, the need to blend in.   I’m okay being known as the Crazy Lady Down the Street.   No longer requiring the validation of strangers, the safety of similar, I can dance with abandon.

Because I’m at the top of my apex (aka: over the hill), the top of my game.   With time, my kids will get there, too.   Once they’ve had the chance to develop their own identity. 

It’s okay.  I get that not everyone wants to be the Crazy Lady Down the Street (though I can’t imagine why not.   Think of the fun they’re missing!).   But one day they’ll come to terms with themselves and see this field as I do; beautiful in bits and pieces, as well as in whole, weeds, bare spots and all.