Saturday, July 10, 2004

Growing up, my mother grew things. The small side and front yards of our trailer were crowded with plants, and most of those plants produced flowers. Every spring and summer we would be walled in by riotous color and a million different scents, and because I didn't know any better I thought it was a paradise.

The rains that fell on our gardens were warm, and unless there was lightning (which I was always too close to being struck by), I would be out in it. I was usually alone outside; lizards and the elderly scurried for shelter when it started to rain. If I tilted my head just right I could make the drops hesitate on my eyelashes, the thin hairs drooping into my line of sight. I loved all the rains, the sunshowers and the storms with drops as big as my fist. Most of all, though, I loved it when the day had been hot enough that the cooler drops hitting the boiling pavement would make steam, the air thick and damp like our small bathroom after a hot shower.

I was a harvester of raindrops. Armed with half of a plastic box that had once held a deck of cards I would go forth into the rains after my crop. Plumeria plants held the water best: their wide flat leaves and ribbed surface supported small puddles until I could cup them and point them downward, herding streams into my hand. I would collect from the plants as much water as I could and I would drink it. I believed that they, so silent, held some special quality that I wanted, and that I could get to it by consuming the water that rested on it. Somewhere I had gotten the idea that by doing this I could be like a plant, and more specifically that I could learn to flare into sudden beauty like the flowers did. Children are mean, after all, and our first brushes with cruelty are sometimes the hardest to understand.
Sometimes, as a finishing touch after the rain ended, I'd stand under the Jacaranda tree and shake it so that a final shower of plant-y rich goodness fell on my head.

Anyway, it never worked. I'm still more girl than flower, and there are years where I forget that I used to believe any such thing. It's only at the times when I feel that I am dangling over some black hole filled with something that wants to eat me that I remember, and I wonder if I fell just one rainstorm short of what I was looking for.

And then I shake myself. Girls don't turn into flowers, not outside of storybooks and five-year-old children. And then I have some ice cream.

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