We are just sitting down for a family dinner to celebrate Mother’s Day.
My parents had six children, and we have all the families together for this special day. An appetizing meal awaits. Mom prepared a delicious brown-sugar ham, and each family brought a side dish to complement the meal. Almost unthinkingly, we avoid serious topics of conversation like work, schedules, and finances. Instead, we reminisce, sharing fond memories.
The banter starts when my oldest brother teases Mom about the carob cakes she used to make—in place of the traditional chocolate ones, because they were “better for us.” We joke about how many hundreds of dandelions Dad made us each pull out of the yard with his special foot-long hand-weeder to make sure we got the whole root. (“The Lion Slayer!” he’d call it, brandishing it like a sword.) Every joke feeds off the last one—and once we’re on a roll, we can’t stop it. We laugh so hard that we cry, and our stomachs ache.
Then, it appears. Mom brings it, steaming, out from the kitchen—fresh asparagus. Well, this causes quite a stir. All eyes turn to our sister Elise. Someone asks if she’d like to be the one to tell her special asparagus story. With her thumb and forefinger, Elise seals a zipper across her lips.
Since Elise won’t share it with you, I guess I’ll have to. One bright Spring afternoon in the month of May, Mom called for Elise. A happy and creative 3-year-old, she skipped right over.
“Let’s get your coat on,” Mom said. “We’re going outside to look for asparagus.”
“Look for asparagus!” Elise squealed. This sounded like a wonderful adventure. She and Mom got their coats and shoes and headed outside. The day was mild. You could smell the moist earth and other wonderful smells of Spring. As they walked, they sometimes felt pockets of cool air mixed in with the warm.
“I don’t think Winter is gone yet. I just felt it,” Elise declared. “Me, too,” Mom agreed.
I wonder what an asparagus is, Elise thought as she walked, sometimes beside Mom and sometimes several steps behind, but all the time not sure exactly what she was looking for. Elise watched intently as Mom searched the edges of the woods and the fence lines.
She kept coming back to the same exciting thought. Was Asparagus an animal big enough to put her arms around? Or was it small? Yes! She decided. Small enough to cup in her hands and hold on her lap, cuddly and as cute as can be, with the softest fur and sweet brown eyes. She imagined that when they found Asparagus, she and Mom would take it home and sit for hours snuggling and petting it. And she would most definitely keep Asparagus in her bedroom.
This is going to be the “bestest” day ever! Elise told herself.
They had only been walking for ten or fifteen minutes, but it seemed like forever to Elise. The anticipation of finding Asparagus was growing with each passing minute.
Then it happened. Mom shouted, “Here’s some!”
Elise spun around like a top and saw Mom bend over and reach for something in the tall grass. She ran as fast as her little legs could carry her to Mom—then looked down to see. “That’s asparagus?” Elise said in shock.
Mom smiled. “Yes, this is asparagus.”
Elise saw Mom pull out her kitchen knife and cut the pencillong green stalk right where it came out of the ground. Then Mom said, “And look. Here’s another”—and Elise broke out crying. Big tears rolled down her sweet, pink cheeks and fell away, along with her dreams.
As the steaming dish of asparagus passes by Elise at our Mother’s Day dinner table, I say, “Elise, don’t you want a helping of asparagus? You don’t have to eat it—you can just hold it and pet it if you want!”
Everyone laughs—everyone but Elise. Not even after all these years
My poor sister. I think a part of her will always be that little 3-year-old, out on an adventure with her mom on a Spring day—and looking for her very own pet: Asparagus. ❖
This article was published originally in 2023, in GreenPrints Issue #133.