A few days ago, I witnessed a mom introducing her two young sons to the Power and Proper Protocol of the Dandelion Wish. Spring is in full effect here in Tennessee -- lawns have been mowed for the first time; lions and lambs are still wrestling the wind out of the weather; every other day the sky unwraps premonitions of summer sunshine and 75 degree weather from clouds like heaps of soaking wet charcoal gray towels; and the trees that are late to the Pastel Ballerina Barbie Wonderland Tutu Fashion Show are leaking that sheer chartreuse halo fuzz of new leaves instead.
I sat on the balcony outside the cafe overlooking a strip of sidewalk and grass that leads away from the Carousel Park by the river. Leaning on a stroller that acted as an air-craft carrier for a toddler unlikely to need to land any time soon, a young woman lagged behind two brothers with identical little-boy-bowl haircuts -- I would guess they were two- and four-years-old.
They had obviously been briefed on at least the first lesson regarding Dandelion Wishes because the oldest boy yelled "There's one!" and left the sidewalk to retrieve the "flower." He pinched it off carefully, low on the stem, and held it up like a lollipop for his mother to verify.
"Yeah, that's a good one," she said. "Now make a wish and blow on it."
He hesitated, squinting up at her, and then looking back down at the magical tool in his hands, studying it with a serious expression. He looked worried -- either deep in the process of deciding on his wish, doubting the execution, or possibly considering that there might be a civilization of Whos on a dust mote whose entire world depended on his actions in this moment. He began slowly walking back to join his mom on the sidewalk, like a tight rope walker carrying a candle.
His little brother zoomed up and made to snatch it away from him, shrieking instructions "Blow it out!" The older boy let out a panic-stricken yelp and held the flower high above both their heads.
Their mom patiently pointed out that there were plenty of others, successfully diverting the little brother's attention to all the possibilities waiting in the grass. In a flash he was leaning over in that precariously balanced pose that toddlers assume when they find something on the ground, the one that reminds me of a cross between Pinocchio and a miniature sumo wrestler, pigeon-toed, squatting with their butts out... you could literally hear the Pull-ups training diaper rustling under his overalls.
The older boy still brooded over his dandelion, his mother trying to convince him that his wish wouldn't come true until he blew the flower apart. "...I don't want to mess it up..." he said.
It was indeed a perfect dandelion seedpod specimen -- enormous, spherical, without a single blemish or missing piece. Like a computer-generated prop straight out of Horton Hears a Who.
Meanwhile, his little brother was tearing any trace of white fluff off the stems with both fists, clapping his palms together, puffing his cheeks and huffing with all the cartoon might he could muster. He was even throwing handfuls of the shorter, yellow-sunburst companion flowers away from him, gobs of clover and green grass... He was soon running ahead of a small tornado of swirling spring confetti. He became a speeding comet of wishes, screaming "I got another one! I got another one!" I believe his wild manifestations even included gravel and mulch; just in case, he intended to rip up the entire ground and fling it away from him, in a full blown AK47 assault of scattershot desire.
Their mom chuckled and cheered him on, the older brother frozen in horror at this extreme technique.
"Can't I just save it for later?" he asked.
"You can save it, but you have to blow it out in order to get your wish."
The little brother sped on away down the border of weeds, dive-bombing nature and announcing wish after wish after wish, dragging his mom behind him with some invisible rope like a water skier behind a boat, her steps all but buried in a foaming wake of fluttering petals and blades and sticks and stones.
The older boy lagged behind now in a tip-toe zombie walk, shielding his intact specimen with one hand, as if the blowback from his brother's reckless magic -- or even his own breath -- threatened his entire future or the population of tiny entities who prayed back to him.
I wondered if it might be a birth order thing -- because I could see myself and my own little brother at that age, employing very similar approaches to wish fulfillment. At the age of four, I would most definitely have been worried, fearful, serious, reverent about the preservation of a single wish -- afraid that by blowing my wish into the world without careful consideration, I might blow it in some other sense of the word.
But today, I have carefully trained myself toward that mad, abandoned method of the younger. My maturity resembles a relaxation, a regression... an evolution moving in the direction of learned spontaneity (if there can be such a thing).
I recognize the intuitive wisdom of the toddler, that puts the immediate actions -- and quantities -- ahead of the contemplation and expectation.
Which little boy are you? How do you blow your wishes?
Image credit MJorge via Creative Commons on Flickr