Our current Colorado urban backyard is filled with a variety of trees and an array of plants ranging from flowers to shrubs with two levels of deep green grass. Every spring I go on the dandelion hunt to hand pick and dig out what I can so that my garden is not overwhelmed with the butter colored weeds. I’ve always believed that these weeds were invasive troublemakers and not worth having around. Little did I know, and I sheepishly admit that even dandelions have a purpose in the eco-system that sustains life in the garden.
Did you know that dandelions are actually great for the garden? They make great companion plants and because of their deep tap roots, which can grow up to two feet long, bring nutrients to the top of other shallow-rooted plants? They are loaded with anti-oxidants and the entire plant is edible, roots and all! They attract pollinators who provide the necessary pollination for our garden to develop fruit, and the Russian version of the dandelion is being used to make rubber for tires! An amazing little weed!
The French name for dandelions is “Lion’s tooth.” Because of the way the leaves look like teeth. The English folk name “piss-a-bed” (and indeed the equivalent contemporary French pissenlit) refers to the strong diuretic effect of the plant’s roots. So this weed is no longer a “stupid or useless” addition in my garden as long as I keep it in check, and neither am I stupid or useless in God’s economy.
As a little girl growing up in a farm town in the 60’s, our little urban neighborhood was less than a mile, (as the crow flies) from the nearest almond tree farm. The owner of this tree farm probably had no idea that this small little farm town would grow into a sprawling city within the next 10 years. By the looks of his tree farm, he was meticulous in the care of his trees and the grounds of his sprawling farm.
There were no weeds, no tumbleweeds, not even field grass growing along the entryway to his place. I know this because my mom used to point out how clean and sterile the place looked. She said it was probably because he had no children to have to clean up after all the time. I think it was that the farmer was an A type personality, who like things in order, but either way, it was one of the prettiest farms in the San Joaquin Valley of California.
One day I was walking home from our city park, which was only about 10 minutes from our house, singing and picking dandelions for a bouquet that I would proudly present to my mom. I was only about seven at the time, so I had no idea that dandelions were known around homes and farms as noxious weeds. In my seven-year-old mind, they were just pretty little yellow flowers that turned into a fun thing to blow on after they had gone to seed. I loved blowing on dandelions and chasing the little parachutes that they released until they were all gone. I even heard one of the neighborhood kids that if you made a wish before you blew on the dandelion, that it would come true. Needless to say, none of my wishes ever came true.
Lost in my adventure, I was quickly stopped in my tracks by a crusty old man with a long beard and a fierce look, grabbing the top of my arm and shaking me. “Stop that blowing, stop that blowing on those weeds, do you have any idea what trouble you’re causing my farm?” said the old man. Tears began to immediately flow as I dropped the bouquet of dandelions and wiggled away from the old timer, running as fast as I could in fear of a smack from his belt. Believe it or not, that was legal back then for someone other than your parents to beat the tar out of you if they saw you doing something wrong.
The old man followed me to my house and went up to knock on the front door. I ran into the backyard to hide in the garden in hopes to escape the horrors of this man coming after me. I had several nightmares after that day and it would be a long time before I picked another bouquet of dandelions! Huddled under a bush in our backyard, I tried to hear the old man talking to my mom. Wondering what I did wrong to cause someone to come to our house and complain. Nothing. I couldn’t hear a thing. All I could do is wait to hear the angry call of my mom to what would be a beating for sure.
After about what seemed like an eternity, I heard my mom call for me. Apparently, she heard the gate close and knew that I was in the backyard. I knew to appear immediately, or my hair would be the handle that she used to pull me up to face her. I stood in silence, shaking as the urine seeped down my legs. I saw my mom’s grin, but it wasn’t for being happy to see me. She was enjoying her power over me and it was invigorating to her by the look on her face. The fear that she had instilled in me gave her a sense of control, something she had none of when it came to my dad ruling over her with his fists. I knew that a lashing was coming because she had already cut a switch from the nearby sycamore tree.
The next thing that I remember was waking up in my bed with the stinging sensation across my legs and my back. I could feel the fresh welts under my urine stained clothes. I pulled the covers over my head and wept for what seemed like hours. It was getting dark and I could smell food and hear voices coming from the kitchen. Hunger pangs gripped my stomach, but I dared not get out of bed except to use the bathroom.
I turned on my nightstand light and tried to be quiet as I lay holding the covers close. I listened carefully as my parents talked and I heard my name along with the words, stupid, useless and a troublemaker. I knew then that I would have no dinner that night and I asked God what I had done to make him so mad at me. It wasn’t until after I had left home that I found out what I did to deserve such a beating. Back then, I dared not ask why or question what punishment I got while living at home for it meant more of the same if I or one of my siblings asked.
My mom had told me that the old man was so angry of all the neighborhoods being developed around his farm that he blamed every weed coming up on his property on the people moving in. I was just an innocent child, not having a clue of how my actions were impacting the amount of weeds that sprung up on his farm and the old coot was fed up. I don’t think he knew or cared what happened to me that night, but it confirmed my thinking that I needed to find a way out of such an abusive family. More on that in a later blog.
My mom was so embarrassed by this man’s ranting that she told him that I would be “taken care of” and her embarrassment turned to anger instead of defending her innocent daughter. I know this now as her and I had sat down some 20 years later discussing the past that I didn’t understand. She was so sorry and didn’t try to make excuses for her actions, but I knew as she told her side of the story that she was consumed with the deep roots of hate, anger and bitterness for so many things, that caused her to take it all out on her children.
At that moment, I made it a point to let her know that I forgave her for all that haunted me about how they raised us. As I understood her lack of parenting skills, selfishness, rebellion and the poor choices that she made in her life, all I could do is feel sorry for her. Because you see, I too have made poor choices, been rebellious, selfish and in need of forgiveness. How could I not forgive her, when I too have been forgiven much? I couldn’t stand there watching her weep in remorse for the pain and the suffering that she and my dad had caused our family, when years earlier, I too had knelt before the Cross of Calvary, begging God to forgive me of my sins.
Our relationship changed that day, and healing began between us even though to write about it today is hard for me to do. I felt it necessary so if you have anger, bitterness towards a family member or friend, that you know going to them with the intent to understand their actions and to forgive them is to bring healing to the relationship. After our talk, my mom and I had many years of friendship and closeness before she died. She began to reveal more of her life story, which allowed me to help her sort through it all and to let some things go so that she could have peace.
When I had to tell her in the hospital that she was going to die and go be with Jesus, she was at peace knowing that she was entering eternity with the forgiveness of God. Can you say that? Don’t let years of hurt, disappointment, bitterness or anger keep you from having peace and restoration in your life. If the person that you’re mad at is gone from this earth, lay it all out before God and give it to Him to nail to the cross along with your own sins. He will give you peace, He will give you rest.