Oh, my heart.
My mom and dad still live in the same house they bought when they were first married; a little bungalow in a now all grown up neighbourhood just west of Toronto. I pass by my old elementary school every time I visit, as well as all the other haunts that make up the geographical landscape of my childhood.
The corner store, my (still) best friend Michelle's old street, my grandma and grandpa's house (which I never fully forgave them for selling since it meant I was no longer the only person I knew who had grandparents living on the very same block, less than two minutes away by foot), the church where I had my first communion, confirmation and grade 8 graduation. They're all still there, every time I come "home".
As I drove past my elementary school yesterday, on the way to the hospital by way of my ancestral home, I happened to catch sight of a tiny clumped-up bunch of kids squatting amidst the dandelions on the boulevard.
Little boys, about Kindergarten age. A whole flock of them, all furiously picking away, their little hands crammed full of the yellow weeds which were, of course, destined for empty jam jars on kitchen windowsills. After kisses and smiles and snuggles of thanks.
Its a right of passage, creating that first glorious dandelion bouquet. I remember doing it myself. And I remember how proud I was when I got the reaction I'd hoped for: a gasp of pure joy and a hug from my mom, who I would have done anything to please. I remember standing by the sink while she filled a jar with water and lovingly put that scraggly bunch of half dead weeds in the window, as though it was the most beautiful thing she'd ever been given. Maybe even better than the L'Eggs panty hose I gave her every Christmas, complete with the plastic egg container that she'd always give me back to play with.
Truly the gift that gave twice, those L'Eggs.
I've thought about my dandelion-less future before. I think I've even blogged about it. No, this wasn't the first time it had dawned on me that I would never have a jam jar filled with weeds on my own kitchen windowsill. I don't think there there are too many things I'll be missing that haven't already worn a deep groove in my brain, they've crossed it so many times in the last five years.
But it was the first time I saw a group of boys Thomas' age gathering dandelions. And it took my breath away. I literally gasped, and then did what you'd expect some steroetypical infertile, childless heroin from a bad Hallmark movie to do - I pressed my left hand into my chest above my heart, as if to stop the ache. And I held my breath, my mouth agape as I continued past the school and around the corner to my mom's house.
Loss is a strange sort of claustrophobia. I wanted Thomas back so badly in those first few moments after seeing the dandelion boys that I wanted to crawl out of my skin, scream, tear apart the steel on my car with my bare hands. Do something, anything, to get him back. To see him, touch him, talk to him.
But, of course, there was nothing to be done but pry my hand off my heart, close my mouth and drive on.
And so I did.
I still like dandelions. I still smile at the memory of picking them and marveling at the thought that there were hundreds of them available - as far as the eye could see - all free and all waiting to be collected and given to my mom.
Jam jars on the windowsill.