The clearest memory I have is of one late-spring afternoon. I was ten years old and the dandelions were in bloom. I’d just returned from school with a backpack full of dandelion heads. Our dog was waiting at the door, excited for my return. Dad’s car was still gone. Mom was in the kitchen, the air full of lemon and orange zest.
She asked me how school went and gave me a tiny plastic cup of golden wine from last week’s batch. She’d let me try other wines and beers, a sip here and there, but none of them were as sweet or refreshing as this. I opened up my bag to show her how many I’d found, hoping to make her happy. I preferred to wait until they could be used to make wishes, but mom said they were more useful this way.
“Your ancestors used this flower for everything,” she said, sticking a hand into the bag and letting the flowers fall back inside. Her hand yellowed with pollen. When she looked at me it wasn’t with warm eyes or cold, but as if I wasn’t there at all. It was more like she was looking at her own reflection in my eyes, wondering.
She took my backpack and went back to the sink to rinse the dandelions. Some of them had been crushed by my school books, but it didn’t matter. I sat on the floor with a bowl and helped remove the thin, yellow florets. After an hour, my hands were cramping, my fingers twitching involuntarily. I took a break and shook my hands out. Mom cracked her knuckles.
“When is dad coming back,” I asked, but she didn’t answer.
“Do you know how many uses this weed has,” she asked instead, still plucking the yellow florets from their heads and discarding the green parts through the window into the yard.
I knew. She’d told me many times, but she always ended up making dandelion wine.