“I love you to the moon and stars, Aunt Rissa,” Cinnamon said.
“That’s a wonderful thing to say to someone, Cinnamon, thank you,” said Aunt Rissa. “I love you to the moon and stars, too.”
“I don’t love Gran,” Cinnamon added, climbing onto a stool at Rissa’s kitchen counter.
Rissa was quiet for a minute while she prepared their snack. She lined up zigzags of roasted carrots and dots of creamy cheeses with adventurous herbs mixed into them, and edged the plate with fresh parsley. Cinnamon didn’t mind trying new foods when Aunt Rissa prepared them because whatever she served was fun to look at and usually yummy, too.
“Have you and Gran been fighting?” Rissa asked, setting the plate between them.
Cinnamon shrugged and dipped a carrot into a red-speckled blob of cheese.
“You know what love is, don’t you?” Rissa added.
“Sure,” Cinnamon said. “My friend Renee is in love with Mason, and she can’t eat or sleep because all she does all day is think about him and write their names together in her binder and stuff.”
“Dandelion love,” Rissa said, nodding sagely.
“Well,” said Rissa, “our silly old language comes up with new words every year but we still use that one little word to describe a hundred different things. Love is used to describe what Renee feels toward Mason, but it can also be what you feel toward your aunt. Or your Gran,” she added.
“I told you,” she said, “I don’t love Gran. I only love you. To the moon and stars.”
“Well,” Rissa continued, “I came up with names for the different kinds of love I feel, to make up for our language misusing that poor, overworked word, love.”
“Like dandelion love?” Cinnamon guessed.
“Exactly,” said Rissa, wiping her mouth with a napkin. “Let’s clean up and go to the park!”
“So,” Cinnamon said on their walk a few minutes later, “why dandelions?” She reached down and plucked a dandelion from between two segments of sidewalk and twirled it in her fingers.
“The dandelion is the flower of youth,” Rissa said. “Children treasure them as much as any other flower. Even when it goes to seed, what do you do?”
“You make a wish and blow all of the little parachutes into the wind where they fly and dance to the song of swaying leaves,” said Cinnamon. She and Rissa had talked about dandelion wishes before.
“Exactly,” Rissa said. “Grownups see dandelions and they think ‘weed’ or ‘nuisance.’ A kid sees beauty and a wish. What most people call love is a lot like that. It is bright and beautiful and full of sunshine. As the flower fades there is often a last wish, and perhaps the excitement of watching the little parachutes dance with the breeze, but what’s left then?”
“Just the gross nub and a stem that gets yucky,” Cinnamon said. She was sad suddenly. “Is that what happens to love?” she asked. Rissa knew everything about everything after all. Was she saying that love ended up as a sad old dandelion nub?
“No,” Rissa said, and she got that smile she got whenever she shared something really important. “Dandelion love often ends up like that because of how it’s built. See, love is a gentle thing. It doesn’t make you stop eating or sleeping. It’s there when you think kind thoughts. It’s there when you think of someone and smile for no good reason.”
“That’s friendship,” Cinnamon said, stooping to pick a white clover flower.
“Love can exist in friendship,” Rissa said. “That’s daisy love, because you can weave daisies together to create beautiful garlands and wreaths. Friends weave their lives together and when they do it’s beautiful like a chain of daisies. There are all kinds of ways you can love, Cinnamon.” Rissa leaned down and plucked another dandelion from the sidewalk and handed it to Cinnamon. “You can even love someone who drives you crazy, or who you get mad at. Brothers and sisters have this kind of love all the time. They don’t always get along, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t love there, binding them together underneath it all. Also granddaughters and grans…”
“What’s that called?” Cinnamon asked.
“I call it sequoia love,” Rissa said. “That’s a great big tree. See, they discovered that the baby trees growing in a circle around a great big old tree were exact copies of that tree. Or, where a big old sequoia fell down, those branches still pointing up turned into trees. That tree kept on going through its children and on and on. When you look up at a sequoia forest, you’re looking at families of trees that could be, genetically speaking, the same families of trees that stood there tens of thousands of years ago.”
Cinnamon stopped and considered the woods at the edge of the park.
“Secoycoy love?” she asked.
“Sequoia love,” Rissa said. “It keeps going, through thick and thin. Even if someone drives you crazy,” she added with a wink. “Now, what do you think we should add to Gran’s bouquet?”
Cinnamon reached down and scooped up several twigs.
“Sequoi trees,” she said.
Rissa smiled, arranging the twigs in Cinnamon’s bouquet.
“Perfect,” she approved.
The next day, Rissa stopped in to check on Cinnamon and Gran.
“Mom, did you see the tree out front?” she called when she entered.
“I’m looking at it,” Gran called from the kitchen.
Gran’s entire kitchen was lined with tufts of green twigs.
“Oh!” Rissa said, dropping her sack.
“I made Gran Secoyee love bouquets,” Cinnamon said proudly.
“So I see,” Rissa said.
Gran raised an eyebrow and shook her head.
“I’m not even going to ask what you’ve filled her head with this time,” she sighed.
Cinnamon kissed Gran’s cheek.
“I love you Gran,” she said. “To the moon and stars, and for thousands of years, like a saycoya tree.”
“Oh Cinnamon,” Gran chuckled, pulling Cinnamon into a warm hug, “I love you too. Big, giant sequoia love.”
Written by W. C. McClure. This short story may be shared (and please do); just please be sure to share it in its entirety, unaltered (and including this fine print), with credit given to W. C. McClure. This is a work of fiction. None of the characters or events depicted are meant to represent anyone or anything this side of dreams. Comments are welcome at http://www.farsideofdreams.com. Also, please help support this indie author by buying W. C. McClure’s books http://www.wcmcclure.com. Thanks for reading!