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When Flowers Bloom and Stars Fall
Let me tell you a something my father told me. It is full of stories and imagination and dandelions. Have you heard that blowing a dandelion grants your wish? That you are breathing new flowers and stories of dreams and imagination into the uncertain sky?
So blow. Blow to break apart the delicate seeds and bring life to new flowers. Blow because flowers may die, but stories never do. Blow to spread your own stories.
Now let me tell you my story. It takes place the day I was going to be confirmed into the Catholic Church and everyone, including cousins from Fresno I’d never seen, had driven over to be packed around the dinner table. There were so many people that the extra picnic chairs and tables from our garage were not enough and around 15 people were clustered on the floor. Their necks were craned to the head of the table where my grandma was about to say grace before eating. I, like everyone else (except for my staunchly atheist dad: one of the only people who knew I was atheist), closed my eyes as my grandmother began to pray.
As usual, my hands and lips blindly followed the familiar shapes and sounds that were created thousands of years before me, that millions of people have repeated before me. But this time, hours prior to swearing before my family my belief in God, I felt strange. I had been faking my faith for years, so this sudden discomfort was unexpected. This unnerving feeling of not being true to myself stayed with me until I stepped onto the church lawn, unmarred by weeds or spots of color, and the feeling was chased away by agitated butterflies.
Soon after, I was inside the church following the steps we had practiced.
Before I knew it, the ceremony was coming to a close and the priest was anointing me with the sign of the cross which I followed with a breathless “Amen.” But instead of a comforting warmth spreading through me as my aunt had told me would happen once I pledged myself to God, the oil felt hot and greasy like it was branding me a fake. While the oil shimmered on other people’s foreheads, mine began to sweat off, running into my eyes and blinding me.
To stop the grease from running into my eyes, I tilted my head and looked upwards into nothing. I wasn’t sure if the night sky was a dark expanse with no holes for light to seep through, or if the ceiling was simply shadowed, but I wished I could see the stars. The stained glass reflected the warm glow of the candles into golden snowflakes that drifted down melting over my closed eyelids and sizzling over the feverish oil. They looked like yellow stars falling from the sky. I thought that wishing on a shooting star also grants wishes. Or maybe I was just drunk on sacramental wine.
I wasn’t sure about the stars and I was afraid to ask because churches suck questions from young mouths and tell us to just believe. But if we keep trying to ask, we chew on the metal gag until there is nothing left of our teeth but fragments. Fragments of bone too heavy to fly away on the wind or to hang in the sky, and too dull to dream or tell stories. So I kept my mouth shut and my head pointed forward and ignored how the oil ran into my eyes and turned the lights into a honeyed blur so it seemed like my eyes were half open, half closed.
To comfort and distract myself, I recalled the story of dandelions my dad had planted in my mind. When I was younger, I had become obsessed with trying to blow my wishes into existence. Every time I ran into our barren, “drought friendly” backyard, I would race over to the weeds and search for the soft white tufts. Closing my eyes, I would wish for some sudden inconsequential want and blow. But my dreams never came true. I guess it was because I simply let nature take its course and decide which dandelions to grow, and mine were never chosen.
Once we returned home, the party really began with an endless stream of people congratulating me and gifting me with Bibles, crosses, and Hail Mary necklaces. I retreated outside into the empty, rainswept yard. Because I hated rain, I huddled under the trees where the dandelions used to grow. They were gone now because, like all flowers eventually do, they had withered and died. And because I never managed to grow new ones; the ones that died were never replaced. But I did not consider that maybe they died because the rain kept pouring down. Even though rain helped the flowers grow, too much water would drown the flowers and overpower those delicate stories.
Hunched in the cold, I realized that even though I did not feel the warmth from God like my aunt does, the fire in my veins rekindled when I thought of the dandelions and stories. And the more I considered how empty the yard looked without that splash of yellow, the more stories of change grew within my chest like seeds, and from them, hope flowered. Stories are true when we believe them, and I believed. I finally believed.
I lived the story written for me, until the moment I did not. My story’s beginning was not loud or defiant, because I am not loud or defiant, but my whisper was still a voice. And when I opened my mouth and dared to speak, that story written for me died, but in its place, hundreds of new ones, fueled by the winds of imagination and possibility, bloomed.
Powered by the stories that raged in my veins like a flame, I picked the last dandelion cloud and blew. But this time, I kept my eyes open and watched as the fire inside me spilled out and changed my world, dying it a brilliant yellow. I watched as the rain stopped and the sun fluttered like golden butterflies onto the blankets of new dandelions.
From those flowers, I wove a crown of dandelions and with my head up, walked back into the party. And when my aunt told me she liked how I was imitating Christ’s crown of thorns, the warm yellow petals on my forehead sent warmth curling around my heart and gave me courage. I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and opened my eyes. I told her no. It was my crown of dandelions.
And I was finally living the story my father told me. A story of stories and imagination and dandelions and me.