She calls me, “Dandelion.” Or she calls me, “Willa-get-over-here-and-look-what-you’ve-done!”
Mummy is a lot of things. She is that smell after the rain. That way the air is cool and makes you fling open windows on sticky summer nights. But she is also the smell of her bleached bathrooms and the feel of our beds, taut and tucked. Some days we blow flowers and make wishes when the seeds scatter. Some days she’s clipping the hedges and weeds hide or they get their heads cut off.
But I know I am always a dandelion. “Wild in the wind,” she says when the day is good. Is today a good day? I stand close, as close as I dare, a fistful of my dress in one hand trying to stand still.
She drags a rug and pillows out into the back garden, and I watch her set up the picnic blanket from the shadows of my tree. It´s afternoon, but not so late that bugs are singing.
I twist hair around my finger and try not to wiggle my toes in the dirt.
“Shhh, shhh,” I tell myself too loudly. I am not so good at shushing.
She notices. Stares. I half-turn in case I shouldn’t be there. A pillow lands at my feet. "Want to sit with me, Dandelion?"
I do. Boy, do I ever. I almost hug the pillow.
Wrapped up in the rug are pencils, pastels, and water colour paper. Fabulous, amaze-a-loo paper. I hold it in my hand. Dimples. Special paper. Mango leaves from the tree above us make shadows on my bare legs. I try not to wiggle or to talk. But I have one of those questions inside again. A juicy, busting one.
Finally, I say, "Can I do that, too?"
I cringe ´cause I don´t want her to send me away.
"Sure." She tears off a piece of paper and places it on my lap.
Then she goes back to her lines, clever lines that scoop around all the space on the page. Magic. Like her words when she is reading and my bed becomes a boat bobbing on the sea and everything is alright now. The bedtime stories are wilder and wilder as talking tigers have tea with panda bears, straight from the pages. Both of us giggling right there by the nightlight as the moon watches over our shoulders.
Is she that same Mommy now?
I watch her drawing until flowers come to life on the paper. It´s a Kangaroo´s Paw, not like from a real kangaroo. Mommy tells me that´s the name of the plant. The red flowers are grouped together like claws, a bit like a kangaroo paw, if you squint and turn you head sideways maybe.
I look at my own empty page and whisper, "How do you do that?"
She stares at me like I´ve asked how to breathe.
"Silly Dandelion! You simply do it.” She ruffles my hair. “You look at what you want to draw and you get real quiet. Then you notice little things. Don´t try to see the whole picture. See the small shapes inside the bigger ones. The lines that link shapes, and the picture will take care of itself. It´s about seeing the beauty of little things."
She stops talking to me now and goes back to her paper, but I can´t take my eyes off her.
Shapes? Shapes. I can see shapes. I can see her hands; the way they make a big circle when she holds me. I can see her eyes and mouth, the way they crease when she smiles because school is finished and I´m running towards her. And I draw. I draw and draw. My mommy on the page with giant blue wings.
For a long time, we say nothing. We are noticing the beauty of little things on the page. Together.
"Did you see the pods on the Kangaroo Paw flowers are furry, too?"
"Pods? Do you mean buds?" I ask.
"They look like pods to me. Pod-shaped. And furry like a paw. Look closely. See the tiny hairs on each pod?"
"Are they your favourite flowers?" I ask.
"No, I like roses, only roses are very fussy. They like raised garden beds and well-drained soils and special foods and their dead heads clipped."
"Sounds violent," I say.
Mommy laughs. I laugh too.
"Can we draw forever?" I ask.
"Yes, I never want to go inside. I never want you to clean the bathroom again."
She laughs. "What’s cleaning bathrooms got to do with anything? And don´t you think you´d get bored? Besides, the light is fading now."
I almost say that I wouldn´t get bored if I could be with her. If we could read in our bedtime-boat and things could come alive and dance in my room. I almost add that she smells so good when she makes apple and cinnamon pie and how I tried on her cherry-print skirt the other day and it didn´t fit me, but it sure looks pretty on her. But I don´t. She might not want me to and then everything would be wrecked. Everything might stop. The drawing. And Mommy and me. And I don’t want anything in this garden to stop. Not ever. So we draw and I am quiet. We draw and draw until I know it’s getting dark and she will say we should go. And when she says it I nearly cry.
Mommy slots the coloured pencils back into the wooden box. They stand together like a little rainbow. Then she closes the lid and the rainbow is lost.
“We could draw in the dark,” I say, sniffing.
“Don’t be silly,” she snaps. “Besides, it’s late. Your father will be home soon and there are things to do.”
Heaving the picnic blanket under one arm and the pillows under the other, I follow Mommy inside. She strides ahead.
"Hurry up, Willa. I´ve got dinner to cook."
I bite my lips so I can be a big girl. Big and not crying. The paper is packed up. The afternoon has left us.
"Come on, Willa. Do you think dinner will cook itself?"
There is no more paper with dimples. No more Mommy and her clever lines. I tuck the pictures of us and the garden inside my head.
"Willa, peel the jolly potatoes before you cut them up. Use your brain, girl. Oh, forget it. Go have a shower. Go! Not that way. Don´t walk that way. I´ve swept the floors. Can´t you see you´re walking through dirt piles? Willa! Get over here and look what you’ve done!"