While watching television the other night with the family, my daughter asked, “Mom, is that a poppy?”
Absorbed in a novel I paid no attention (to be a writer, one must be an avid reader, multi-tasking screen versus print, notwithstanding). Her father, seated next to her, was watching the same program. He could answer.
But he didn’t. And apparently, this was a girl who wanted to know so once again, a little louder this time, “Hey, garden whiz. What kind of flower is that?”
I flipped my gaze from book to daughter. Garden whiz? My husband and I exchanged glances and shared a private chuckle. Garden whiz? Really? She’s nine. Where do they come up with this stuff at this age?
To his credit, my husband was first to respond. “Garden whiz?” he asked her, giving none of his amusement away.
“Well,” she surmised, putting forth her best authoritarian air. “She knows everything about plants.”
“Vegetables,” I corrected, still amused by the maturity she revealed. It’s constant, really. You have to keep on your toes around these kids, I’m telling you. “I know all about vegetables.” As far as you know, anyway.
“Whatever,” she replied, unimpressed by the distinction. “Do you know what kind of flower it is?”
Twelve, I groaned inwardly. I thought I had until she was twelve before this attitude started! But indulging her, I glanced toward the television screen and speculated – guessed, really – as to the identity of the orange-red flower with the black center. “I think it’s a poppy.”
“Oh,” she replied, unenthused. That — after her initial persistence. Go figure.
Curious now, I began to wonder about the flower. Was I correct? Images formed in my mind’s eye of where I last saw this particular species and suddenly, I realized I was thinking of the “drug” flower — as in opium. Fields of it floated within the breeze of my imagination as the images swirled in my head.
Images I quickly extinguished. I flashed to my daughter. She is an innocent, granted, dipping perilously close to adolescence, but I reassured myself that a poppy is a common flower, and doesn’t necessarily denote anything more than beauty.
But ever the creative one, my mind continued to conjure up image after image of all kinds of sordid things; bad seeds growing bad weeds, kids whacked out on drugs—
Stop. Breathe, darn it. Breathe. It’s just your motherly instincts breaking out of their pen, trampling the beautiful green pasture you’ve created so meticulously with loving care. Nothing to worry about here. All is well.
Anxiety attack securely behind me, I checked my internet resources and discovered I was right. Don’t ask me how I knew. Remember, I grow vegetables, not poppies. Must be the news, I concluded. I watch too much news.
Tucking my daughter in that evening, I kissed her forehead and took in the sweet scent of her hair, her skin. Lingering, it occurred to me; kids can amaze you. From out of nowhere, for no reason, can appear the rarest of moments, the clearest of glimpses into their hearts and minds — and you as a parent — simply must keep up. Some days, this feat is harder than others.
But most days, I’m good. And fortunate, because it’s my job to stop and smell the roses, savoring each and every moment along the way. Sometimes more is required, sometimes less, but it’s always fresh and new.
And always worthwhile.