As we approach our elder years, we often look back, holding up puffs of memory to the sunlight. At the center of each is a tiny seed of energy that belongs to us. We can separate this seed from the puff, take it deep inside us to reintegrate into who are, and then, with a breath, blow the puff away and let it travel the wind until it’s out of sight. Fairies, that’s what my sister used to call dandelion puffs. But I know now that they’re our memories–eat the seed, and blow the puff to the wind! Keep what’s you, and let go the rest.
As Aspen stands at her birthday cake, before even making her wish, she looks back at all the dandelion puffs that make up her days.
This is who I am, she thinks.
I am the little girl who underneath her smile could see the gloomy side of life.
I am the one who was Willow’s best friend.
I am the social butterfly, creative prodigy, rambunctious scamp. Even still.
I’m the one who helped out Mom when we’d have a party and there were dishes everywhere!
I’m my little sisters’ big sister, even now that we’re all grown.
Stop, Aspen. Eat the seeds, then blow the puffs into the wind. Now what do you see?
All these parts of who I was as a child, they’re all part of me now, part of what colors how I perceive life.
I’m the one who refused to cave in to betraying who she is by working towards a randomly rolled aspiration of Public Enemy which is so not me.
That’s me, looking right into the camera. I like to pause now and then to check in with what’s happening on the other side of the screen. You’re part of me–your imagination. And I’m part of you, too.
I’m the one finding my style, being me, just like Willow is Willow and Madrona is Madrona. I’m the one who’s seeing we don’t pretend or try to be someone we’re not–we just find our own natural expression.
I’m the one who set the founder’s oven on fire while making taco casserole. We’re just grateful that Dad and Cousin Kourtney were there to put the fire out and nobody died!
Stop and breathe, Aspen. Blow those puffs away!
I remember ordinary days–running to school while Mom and Dad stayed in the kitchen to flirt.
I remember our friend Gideon. He was Willow’s friend first, but when I was still a kid, he and I became friends. He came over for every party, and we’d play cards. It’s been a while since I’ve thought of good old Gid.
Eat the seed. Blow the puff!
That must have been my young adult birthday. I remember being an adult and just wondering what there was ahead of me in life–where did I fit? Would I be the heir? Did I even want a man and babies? What else was out there? What was possible?
And then, after Poplar aged up, and it was clear that I was the heir, I remember accepting this–as my purpose. As what I was here to do. And life just fell into place after that.
That’s me, meeting Lamont and Niko–my sister’s husband and my own. The father of her kids, and the father of ours.
I’ll always remember when I chose Niko. We just fit.
That’s me, marrying Niko. He wore the suit. I wore the animal hat.
Take it in, Aspen, what’s yours. Breathe. Let go. Watch that puff float on the breeze until it’s out of sight.
I remember how amazing it felt to be carrying Salix, just complete and total connection with this amazing process of life.
That’s me, holding my baby, with a heart so full it made my eyes hurt.
Breathe in. Breathe out.
I remember how it felt to connect with my mom, now that I was a mom myself and I’d felt that connection so deep it ran through every fiber. I remember how my respect for my mom grew and grew. She was so sad the day that Madrona married, a new widow wearing what she’d worn on her own wedding day, when she was carrying me.
Take the seed, Aspen. Breathe. Watch that puff float away.
That’s me, dead-tired and gloomy from a long day playing sports. Our team won. But I was beat. I remember being a new mom and a rookie. Character-building. That’s what the coach said.
I’m still the one cleaning up the dirty dishes, piles bigger than me!
I’m the one stealing quiet moments late at night, for a swim, cup of coffee, a little solitude, and the peacefulness of my own thoughts and reflections. I remember thinking how sweet life is and what an honor it is to simply be alive.
That’s you, Aspen. At your core.
I’m the one who goofed and told a flirty joke to her brother-in-law on a whim and wound up with way more romantic complications than I’d bargained for, and I’m the one who’s glad that I was the only one to get hurt.
It’s not something I’d do again, but I learned a lot from it, and since nobody else got hurt and my own heart healed up just fine, no lasting harm was done, and a lot of growing up and wisdom was gained. Ah, life. I’m the one living it.
Let it go, Aspen. Breathe in. Breathe out. There goes another dandelion puff!
I’m the one who’s still crazy about her childish, foodie, geek of a husband. I’d pick him again any day! If I ever get a million lives, I’d live each one with him.
I’m still doing dishes.
I’m the one who loved her mom. Well, we all did. To know Linda was to love her. She’s been a great role model for me all my life. I’m eager to be an elder, because she showed me just how awesome this chapter of life is.
I remember the feeling of new life again.
And when I went into labor, I remember how calm and peaceful and strong I felt. I remember riding each contraction like a wave, and it wasn’t so much the sensation of pain as it was the feeling that a flower must have as the bud is ready to burst. New life.
Take it in, Aspen. All that’s you.
Another daughter. Another child made from Niko and me and the love we share.
Our little Sugar. She’ll be a teen soon. I might not be here to see her become a young adult.
Aspen, hold up that dandelion puff. What’s you? What’s not?
This is me.
I’m the one who’s carried on generation five here at Cradle Rock, the heir. It’s not a big deal in terms of being important. It’s a big deal in terms of service–we give up a lot, as heirs. But it’s worth it. ‘Cause look at what we serve–this whole long line of family extending in both directions. That’s something I’d dedicate my life to anytime. It’s a good life, and it’s me.
Take a deep breath, Aspen. When you breathe out, letting go of all that’s not you, you will be ready for this next stage of your life. Be it short, be it long, you’ll bring to it your essential self, all complete and nothing extra, nothing that’s not needed.
Aspen’s discovering that the end of youth of the body doesn’t mean the end of youth–when you pull inside of you all that’s you from all your life, you find that inside, you still feel young, because when the energy at the core of your memories becomes integrated into who you are, and all the extra pieces are let go of, you’ve got your essential self, forever young.