The unexpected flower (Happy Mother’s Day)


When Hannibal was a wee lad, he and I used to amble around our neighborhood on walks, sometimes with dogs in tow, other times by ourselves. I don’t think he really knew why we were walking, but Daddy said we were and that was good enough for him.

The kids all go through phases where they prefer one parent over another, and we were smack dab in the middle of “Daddy’s the best!” phase. My wife was a new mother and I don’t think she appreciated the unsurpassed adulation I received whenever I came home from work. On top of being a new parent at the time, it was a rough time of transition.

One day, as we were making our rounds at our usual snail’s pace, the boy stopped, picked a dandelion, and carried it all the way home where he proudly presented it to Mrs. Nostrikethat.

Here Mommy, I picked this for you because I thought you’d like it.

She melted.

It was the first of many such gifts. Sometimes a pretty fall leaf, othertimes an interesting rock or stick, but the go-to mommy present usually was a dandelion.

As we had more kids each of them would take it upon themselves to stop and pick a dandelion for mommy, for no other reason than somewhere in their tiny little minds they remembered the existence of their all-encompassing universe and decided that she needed a flower.


I have a neighbor and good friend who wages a ceaseless war against dandelions. Not a weekend goes by when he is not out there, shovel in one hand, bucket in the other, extracting dandelions down to the roots. His lawn is a lush green expanse worthy of an English Estate, which in the suburbs counts for a lot of street cred.

Turn 180 degrees to face my lawn and it looks like a herd of bison power-horked Cheezits indiscriminately– piles and clusters of yellow all over.

I think the categorization of dandelions as weeds is unfortunate. I prefer to call them “accidental flowers.”

Dandelions are common, true, but they have a lot going for them. There’s the color, for one- sunny and bright. Even when they go all gray they’re still fascinating and beautiful, and judging by the number of kids who blow on them they’re more fun, too. Dandelions don’t need a lot to get by- I’ve seen them growing up out of the middle of a sidewalk. Dandelions are also extremely resilient- it seems like no matter how often you run one over with a lawn mower, before you know it–ding! It pops right back. If dandelions aren’t the official flower of motherhood, I can’t think of a better candidate.

With laser-like precision your average 3 year old is focused on what’s bothering them right now. The end result is that the mechanics of attention almost never work out in anyone’s favor except the child’s, which makes it all the more remarkable when the attention does break away long enough to see something, even if it’s just a common, ordinary flower, and think of anyone other than themself.

This weekend pick the mom in your life some dandelions.

I even have a few extra.

This post is dedicated to my mom, my wife, and moms everywhere this Mother’s Day. I love you mom, I’ll probably even remember to call this time.