Thunder

“Stay close to me, there might be thunder!”

It was a stormy afternoon in California, dark clouds covered the usually blue sky as rain pounded down. My sister and I had been playing outside when the downpour started. We rushed across the yard to safety, and my sister, being older and very protective, grabbed my hand and said to me, “Stay close to me, there might be thunder!” And, just as she said it, a huge thunderclap burst through the sounds of rainfall.

I was probably 3 or 4 when this happened, but I still remember it clearly. It was one of the few moments in my childhood when I felt completely loved and safe. My sister and I were very close when we were young. From the moment I was born, she loved me. She often showed it in weird ways like tricking me into eating a mud taco, pinning me down to spit on my face, and trying to throw me out the bathroom window of a hotel to save me from our parents, but despite the questionable moments, she was always there to protect and love me. The first line of defense against a dark and dangerous world.

Just two little girls.

As we got older, it became harder for her to protect me. Danger lurked in unexpected places in our household. Slaps that flew for no apparent reason, quiet whispers of things children should not know. We lived with the constant nagging feeling that something terrible was about to happen, and it was only a matter of time before someone really got hurt. Eventually, I learned to protect myself. But the nasty side effects of growing up knowing mostly fear and sadness showed themselves as I raged into my teenage years full of anger and pain. There was no way for her to reach me, so we drifted apart.

As teenagers, I worked through my internal turmoil with drugs, promiscuity and a fully immersive socio-economic study of the drifter culture, she sought her escape by channeling her intense fight for survival into academia. She graduated valedictorian and I narrowly escaped death on more than one occasion. But even worlds apart, she was always there. She did the things our parents should have done. She had the hard conversations, she offered support and she showed me love. She did the best that any slightly older child could do. And so, with time, we found our way back to each other.

Our reunion started when she left for college and invited me to join her for a skirt party and underage drinking. Next, I visited her one year for Thanksgiving. It was just me and her in a little apartment making chicken, peppered brownies, and rekindling the love and joy we had shared as children. We drank too much champagne, made incredibly stupid videos, and laughed until tears of joy rolled down our faces. After that, the visits became more frequent and the calls longer. The space between us disappeared, and there we were, as close and full of love as two children running from a rainstorm.

This year, thunder struck again. With my sister in Los Angles and me in France, we reach across the ocean to escape the storm. We both protect each other now. We share the hard conversations, the offers of support and show love to each other when it is needed. We call on each other to remember what is real and what is not. To remind each other not to get lost in hope. To accept our limitations and put our energy where it matters most. We help each other to make the tough calls, to face the hard truths and to prepare for the inevitable. In life, there will always be thunder. There will always be storms and scary things. What matters, are the people who will take your hand and pull you close. No matter how far away it may seem, love will always be there when the storm hits.

The face of love!

Dandelion Wishes

This week the sun came out.  Spring has arrived after one of the wettest winters we have had in California in a very long time.  As someone who loves the rain, the seemingly endless wet days brought me joy.  But, no matter how much I love a grey day, there is something special about that moment when the rains stops and the sun peeks through the clouds and stretches its rays out to brighten the already vibrantly green grass. 

The sun brings life.  The trees start to show buds, animals become more active and flowers show their faces to the bright world around them.  Here in America, not all things that grow are considered beautiful and a common sight in California is the pesky dandelion.  Let me just say this…I love dandelions!  I know they are a “weed,” but they are so adorable.  They have those cute little yellow poofball heads resting on stems that burrow down into leaves that splay like jazz hands in the grass. They are cute, cheerful and most importantly full of joy and most important of all…magic!

When I was a child, I was constantly playing with dandelions. I would turn them into little dolls. I would pluck one of their flowers close to the base so it had a nice long stem. Next, I would take a leaf, not necessarily a dandelion leaf, but any big, flexible leaf, and I would fold it, poke a small hole at the fold and thread the dandelion stem through. I would then tie a little piece of grass around the leaf like a belt. Instant doll. They were cute and I could make an entire dandelion family in one afternoon. I would make the children out of the buds, the parents would have bright yellow faces and the grand parents would be made of the dandelions that had gone to seed. An entire generation of dandelion dolls to live in my mud hut or whatever other creation I had built for the day. Joy!

When I wasn’t making dandelion dolls, I was making dandelion wishes. I don’t remember when I learned about dandelion wishes, I’d like to think I was just born with the inherent knowledge that dandelions possessed magic. An inner knowing that blowing every last seed from a dandelion head in a single breath was the surest way to make all my dreams come true. I felt very strongly about dandelion magic. When I wanted something important, I would wander out into the backyard and scour the grass for a grey head. When I spotted one, I would inspect it. That’s the thing about dandelion magic, it has to be the right head or it won’t work. If too many seeds have already fallen off, it’s cheating since half the work is already done, and then the wish won’t come true. If the seeds are too tight, I was guaranteed failure because my little lungs could not blow hard enough to make my wish come true. Once I found the perfect dandelion, seeds intact but not too tight, I plucked it. I would hold that dandelion in my little hands, close my eyes, take a deep breath and on on the exhale I blew and I wished, “I wish to be Princess Leia and marry Han Solo.” Like I said, I did this when my wish was important.

As an adult, I still blow on dandelion heads.  I just can’t help myself.  I still,deep down, secretly believe that they are magic.  I think if I can just blow that last seed off, my wish will surely come true.  My wishes have changed of course.  No longer am I dreaming of growing up to be princess Leia (ok, sometimes).  I now wish for universal healthcare, to win a trip to Antarctica, for my niece to grow up happy and strong.  But even though my wishes may have grown up, in those moments blowing on a dandelion, my belief in magic is just as strong as it was before the world told me to stop believing in fairy tales. But the joy of dandelions is dampened by my adult ego. When I hold the dandelion up to blow for my wish, I feel embarrassed. I worry that someone is watching and judging. Maybe I just need to find the perfect dandelion, close my eyes and blow and once again the world will accept that 32 year-olds just want to go on their lunch break and make a dandelion wish. Because I do, deeply wish, that it was acceptable in this world to triumphantly hold your dandelion poof up to the sky and blow long and hard for all of your heart’s desires.