I’ve always wondered at the dissonance we experience between how our parents want us to live our lives, and how we actually want to live them. Growing up in a religious household, I often felt as though I was simply going through the motions and not living a life I was proud of. The residual guilt that I experienced after decided to pursue my own path was disconcerting.
A few weeks ago, I reached out to some wonderful writers and creators to hear about their own experiences with this idea. How does this difference with our parents affect us? Is it negative, positive? In return, I received beautiful, heartfelt poems and stories and musings. I feel extraordinarily lucky to have read all of them!
I will be sharing them one by one, or in pairings (if they are shorter pieces). Without further ado, I’m excited to present the first installment of Parental Dissonance.
“Human Garden” by Danielle
The garden has long served as a metaphor for living, breathing conceptions, forever waning and unsteady. The inconsistency of the garden is beautiful: some plants shrivel while others flourish. There are species of plants that grow flowers, some grow fruit. Some appear displeasing to the human eye but taste like the sweetest sugar. Some flowers press into themselves in the night, then spread their petals, smile at the sun when it rises.
For 22 years of open eyes, my mother’s eyes, voice and vibrant eyes have extended into the world like shimmering petals, changing colors and tone. She changes from season to season and always finds her comfort in water. The ancient and strong tree is my father, his roots, like legs digging into the solid ground, shading the flowers, the grass, providing a safe haven for the little creatures that live in the nooks and crannies of his trunk. My brother is the friendly chipmunk, going from inhaling the beautiful scent of the flower to lounging by and playing on the tree while nibbling on a chestnut.
I still don’t know what my conception is in our family garden. Since I was young, I hoped to be my mother’s daughter, my mother’s little rosebud. I have stretched my petals, or perhaps branches, or perhaps critter-like claws, to figure it out. In my adolescence, my face was a canvas of weeds, pimples and red splotches caking what I thought were wilting, waning flowers and buds of grass.
each summer, when my face cleared itself of prickly, poisonous weeds
i thought that the freckles that came were like dandelions
weeds in disguise, soon to transform into white pods
that would carry me back to my original canvas
a bed of weeds.
My mother’s shimmering petals, her vibrant eyes would scan my weeds and she would apply sunlight, water. She would find me creams, ointments, cover up, foundation, clay masks. Now, I know she was trying to bring out the flowers, my petals, but back then, I felt my conception was the weed.
i used to perform in plays, musicals, the like.
i started one summer.
the first: “How Does Your Garden Grow?”
my role: lead weed
this was before
weeds on my face,
the stalk that was my body
expanded and curved
in ways that made my eyes
vibrant with spring water,
in ways that made my flower mama’s eyes
cringe with worry.
she kept trying to show me the flower i could be.
I lied. My eyes were not open for 22 years. They’ve opened only recently.
I do not think my mother always thought she was a flower, with sprawling petals, a delicate stem, fragrant and brilliant as I’ve always seen her. Maybe she does not think she is a flower at all.
sometimes she would show me pictures of her at my age
and her sparkling pupils would dim
“look at my thick waist”
“that dress is so unflattering”
she thought she was a weed in the garden bed,
maybe she hasn’t realized that she still isn’t.
Most days, I think I am a flower. Other days, I think I am a weed dressed up in delicate fragrances, leaves, petals and sways of the wind.
I wonder if that’s how she feels.
one day, i will have a daughter with my mother’s eyes.
they will sparkle like spring droplets on lilypads.
before she can speak, i will kiss her petaled eyelids.
i will tell her that she is forever a flower, my rosebud.
forever petaled, forever fragrant.
i just hope she never thinks of herself as a weed.
[Image was created by Danielle as an original graphic to accompany her piece.]