As you enter through gates, you will see flowers and butterflies fluttering all over the landscape. Grab a horse and ride up the road. The roads are windy, but the views are beautiful. You will pass fields of flowers; gardenias bloom all year round. The scents and colors fill you with happiness as you approach the small store in the middle of the property. It is called the Heavenly Shop.
The front of the store has a big porch where dogs and cats roam freely. The animals may go in and out as they wish, and must receive attention from all customers. When you walk inside, there is an enclosed corner space filled with bunnies at play. You may hold them as you venture throughout the store. The store is 5 stories high, each holding a different product.
Story 1: not only are there sweet bunnies to hold, but this story is filled with memories. From the greatest childhood days on the beach with family, to the sad days when a loved one was lost. You can enter any and every memory possible. Although the emotions vary, they are all in the same place, and could be viewed forever.
Story 2: As you leave the first floor and are approaching the second, you will have worked up an appetite. The second floor is filled with all the greatest foods you could imagine. From comfort foods like takeout Chinese, to a fancier meal such as steak, this story has it all.
Story 3: Now that you are full and energized, you enter story 3. It is the most fun, and includes all kinds of activities. There is a trampoline park, a roller skating and ice rink, and even an indoor pool with lots of water slides. This floor has it all; and more.
Story 4: You have been busy for a while, and are ready to settle down and relax. Enter the 4th floor for the perfect place: the spa. This is not an ordinary spa; rather a miracle spa. This spa has everything you could ever want. From relaxing massages and facials, to beds that stimulate sleeping on a cloud. This spa can cure any problem that you have ever faced. This floor is filled with windows where endless sun rays shine in, and you are never uncomfortable here.
Story 5: This is the highest, and most precious floor of them all: family. Within this story you can visit any and all family; dead or alive. Whether you just want to sit in silence, or catch your grandparents up on all your wonderful adventures in life, this is the place to go. This floor is my favorite.
Now that you know what this store holds, please stop by. We are located off the coast of Clearwater Beach, in Florida. Anyone is welcome, and you can stay as long as you need.
As a teenager, babysitting the kids around your neighborhood is a rite of passage. It teaches you responsibility for your actions and the actions of others, and it is an excellent first job for some cash on the side. For all the young teenagers out there, babysitting kids in your neighborhood is perfect if you don’t have a driver’s license. Another perk is that the average babysitting rate is $18.36 an hour (Kim), which is more than minimum wage in most states, so make yourself the person parents call when they need a babysitter. However, there are some simple rules that all babysitters must follow that ensures that you will get a call back when they need a sitter again. These rules ensure that you do the bare minimum, keeping the kids safe and making sure the parents love you.
When you first arrive at the house, make sure you get there at least five minutes early and shake the hands of whatever adults are there. You will want to say “yes ma’am” and “yes sir” showing off your Southern charm and respect. After a little small talk, find the kids (Suzanne and Damien) introduce yourself to them and be overly friendly. The parents will likely stare you down and see how you interact with the children. Get onto their level, look them in their eyes and ask about school. There is nothing kids enjoy talking about more than school. Tell the parents as they are heading out the door that there is no rush home and have lots of fun. All of this might seem like a no-brainer, but you can’t be rude to the people paying you if you want to be booked again. Being on your best behavior in front of adults is a must.
After the parents finally leave, the real work starts. It is finally just you, Suzanne, and Damien and now you can show your true colors. Young children these days lack independence. If they are immature enough or irresponsible enough to need a babysitter in the first place, you now must control them and teach them the ways of adulthood. Locking them in a room is the best move. I know this sounds crazy, but if you are in the room with them trying to play, they will never learn what independence is like and play by themselves. Without independence, they will never turn into adaptive, collaborative, or even visionary adults. Keep them in the room for as long as possible, and only enter if you hear screams of bloody murder. If they are simply crying, don’t go in. The real world is brutal, and the sooner they understand that, the better. A few tears never hurt anyone and kids these days are soft. When I was a child, my parents restrained me and smacked me in the back of the head with a spoon if I talked back.
While they are locked in the room, roam about the house as if it is your own. Look in their fridge and eat whatever you can find, even if it is expensive. Some fridges these days are filled with $12 Kombucha, organic, hand-roasted granola, and assortments of cheese, and this family has that type of fridge. They wouldn’t keep the food in plain sight for you if they didn’t want you eating, and I’m sure they won’t mind. Go and look through drawers; find their social security cards and their bank account information. It’s free entertainment. But don’t forget this; scattering the monopoly money and checkers pieces all around the house so that way the parents know that you and the kids played lots of games.
Mealtime is the most important part of your job. You can’t give Suzanne and Damien back to their parents on an empty stomach. If you do, the first thing out of their mouths will be “I’m hungry,” and the parents will instantly know. However, the contents of the food you give them heavily depend on what time the parents will be home. If they are coming home shortly after dinner, then give the child as much sugar as they please. Fill their stomachs with pixie sticks, bonbons, and apple pie. Dealing with them will no longer be your problem by the time the sugar rush kicks in. And, it will give the child energy and make it seem like they had a good time with you. But, if you are in charge of putting the child to bed, they get a zero sugar dinner or no dinner. Restrict yourself from giving them only spinach and a tiny handful of almonds, you know, make their stomach feel fuller than it is. Don’t make your life harder than it needs to be. If the child doesn’t like what you have prepared, who cares? They can go to bed hungry because, once again, it is not your problem.
After dinner, leave all of the dishes scattered across the kitchen. Don’t be the maid; it’s not your job, so leave as big of a mess as you can. The parents will ask that you feed their child, the scattered plates check that box. After dinner, it’s bedtime. Going to bed early is especially important for young kids. The second it gets dark, it’s bedtime. You don’t need to deal with Suzanne’s excessive talking or Damiens constant fart noises anymore. The parents will thank you the following day for how rested their children are. If the kid says they aren’t tired, medicating them is always allowed. Be responsible with this; you’ll want a sleeping kid, not a dead one. A few milligrams of melatonin or Tylenol PM will do the trick. If the child asks for a bedtime story, the answer is always no. If they don’t know how, that’s the parent’s fault, not yours. Before you leave the room, say goodnight to them and the monster under their bed. Name the beast a slight variation of their name. For example, Damiens monster’s name is Darien, and Suzanne’s monster’s name is Suzan. Then describe in excruciating detail that their monster will bite their foot off if they get out of bed. Once you finally leave, lock the child in their room. If there isn’t a lock on the outside of the door (which there typically isn’t on children’s doors), jam a chair under the door handle. If a child knows they can leave their room, they will if they don’t fall asleep. Eliminate the option entirely so that they don’t bug you. Just remember- unlock the door or move the chair before the parents get home.
Now that your babysitting duties are complete until the parents get home, invite some friends over. The parents want you having a good time while they are gone, and you have the house to yourself: the more people, the better. Give your guests access to anything in the house as well. That’s what being a suitable host means. Make sure they are gone before the parents come home, though. That way, the parents will know you are responsible enough by having an early curfew for your guests.
Once the parents arrive home, ask them lots of questions about their night. Who were they with? Where did they go? What did they eat? This will make you seem interested even though you don’t care in the slightest deep down. If they ask how the night went and what you guys did, make things up. They will believe you over their little, sticky, loud kid. Tell them about all the exhilarating activities you guys did, what they chowed on for dinner, and how easy the children were. This step is essential. You want the parents thinking you had just as much fun with their kid as the kid had with you. This step will show the parents that you and their child have good chemistry, and they will be sure to invite you back in the future. As you leave, thank them and tell them your preferred payment method. Make sure to tell them that you can’t wait to come back; then, finally, you can go home. These steps are crucial to your success as a babysitter as long as you follow them precisely.
My eyelashes are angry with me.
I stayed up too late, forgot to take care of them.
Forgot to clean them, be grateful for them.
Most days I’m ok,
I go about my normal day, it’s routine.
I use them, without knowledge or care.
Unless someone says, “you’re so lucky, you have such long eyelashes.”
And then I remember that I’ve forgotten to be thankful for them.
At night I spend a little extra care, I’m a little more delicate.
As I remove the makeup that binds them into those long pleasing crests.
The eyeshadow that dusts over them after every blink.
The eyeliner that coats my eyes to red.
A standard for beauty, they say.
And then the next morning I forget.
All over again I forget to be thankful, and grateful, and kind.
Those days I glue them up tight just to feel something new.
To feel pretty, to feel loved, to get that attention that feels like true happiness for a moment.
Something like authentic, but a little bit more sour.
And then it fades as the night is clouded in smoke and bitterness.
The makeup smudges from tears of another night of emptiness.
The makeup smears from the heavy breath and sweat of another nobody who would never remind me to care for my lashes.
The makeup splatters from another night walking home alone in the rain.
Then I climb in my bed, or someone else’s,
My eyelashes long forgotten.
And in the morning they hate me again.
I did not give them the care they deserved and they were left caged and breaking all night.
And I hate myself for what I’ve done to them because I know I’m lucky to have them.
That they’re worth so much more than what I’ve given them.
I curl up alone and cry or something like it because I cannot cry.
Sleep through the hole in my heart that’s tearing me from the inside out.
Dance and smile through the weight of it all.
And then there are some days when I know exactly what I’m doing.
When I lay around hating myself.
Neglecting my eyelashes because I know that I will never deserve them.
That I should let them shrivel up and die.
To show everyone some semblance of the pain inside.
I go to sleep knowing they will hate me in the morning.
But all my energy has been put into my smile for the day and I have nothing left to give.
I wake up in the morning, another day and I’m still here, still hurting.
I wish it wasn’t true.
I wish my eyelashes weren’t angry with me.
Half our lives
Dead, but breathing,
But sleep is necessary,
So we must.
That imprison us,
But education is necessary,
So we must.
Trapped in various cubicles,
But money is necessary,
So we must.
We have almost no time left.
And life is short.
And time will run out, so
Your waking hours
When you can be alive
Those innocent years
Without a care in the world,
And be present
And be grateful.
Time with family,
In life, breathing,
Because life is short.
And time will run out,
So we must try.
If you were a flower, my friend, then you would probably be a dandelion. Well actually, if we’re getting technical a dandelion isn’t even a flower really but more like a weed. Perhaps that’s what makes being a dandelion so special.
Nevertheless, if you were a dandelion you would be the one in the very center of the field. The dandelion with the most sunshine and the company of all the surrounding dandelions wrapped around you like a blanket of warmth and love.
If you were a dandelion, you wouldn’t be the dandelion who is rushed away by the wind with the rest. No, you would be the one who gets plucked up by a bright-eyed little girl with beautiful dreams and wishes for the future. She’d wish for a better world and with your special powers, you would be able to grant that wish. And then she will send you off with the wind.
If she sent you off with the wind you would probably travel to far-off places. You would see the most beautiful castles and sculptures. You would hear music from all over the world, just as you always dreamed about. Music would be even sweeter accompanied by the chorus of the wind and rustling trees of forests long forgotten. You would fly over all of it and collect stories from all corners of the world.
If you were to collect stories from all over the world, I reckon I would be pretty jealous. You see, I’ve not seen much of the world or heard its stories. I know only of our home where the trees are still and the music is quiet. The birds sing the same songs over and over again and the people are interchangeable. Kind but the same. And I know that seeing the same things every day can be quite boring, especially for a dandelion made for so much more. You had your family of course, and leaving them to travel on the wind alone must have been frightening and strange. But I bet you are finally where you have always longed to be. I hope that means never staying in one place.
If you never stayed in one place, I bet you would be able to smell all kinds of things. Cool and crisp smells like the meadow back home where everything began. But hopefully new smells too. I hope you get to smell the salt from the ocean. God, how we both loved the ocean. The sound of the waves crashing and the seagulls barking and the sunny smiles of everyone there. And sweet things too, like a chocolate shop in Paris or Rome. I want you to smell all the most wonderful smells in the world and I hope that those smells can leave the past behind.
If those smells could leave the past behind then maybe you can have a truly fresh start. I’m not quite sure how a dandelion does it but I assume the different fluffy bits land all over the globe and become new dandelions. I would want that for you. To have a fresh start somewhere new. You never liked having too many roots and were always so eager to fly away. Whether it was abroad or a simple trip to the lakes up north. I think the dandelion equivalent would just be to fly away and hope you land somewhere new and exciting.
If you were to land somewhere new and exciting, I’m quite sure your colors would change. Brightening in the summer sun and shifting in the cool breeze. I hope you see the sun a lot. You never liked it when I teased you about being too pale. But mostly I hope you get to feel the brisk snow without wilting away in the cold. Seeing the glistening pure white snow always lit a special spark in your eyes. I would hate to see that go away, even as a dandelion who, now that I’m thinking about it, doesn’t even have eyes.
If the spark ever left your eyes, I would be very very sad. For you are my friend and I shall always want nothing more than to see you smile. But if you were ever unhappy I would fly to wherever you might be staying at the time and I would remind you about all the lovely places you have been and all the lovely pieces of yourself you have left for the world to forever cherish. See, there is simply no other flower with such power. And certainly no other flower, or weed, with such magical properties as well. The power to grant wishes.
Such magical properties can only be passed on through family. The magic in your family flows strong and steady. Each member holds the power to grant any wish, just like the other dandelions. And for as long as I can remember, you and your family have not let a single person down with your magic.
If you were a dandelion I hope your dandelion family would be ok. I don’t know what it is like to be separated from the people you love. You were the first to go on your journey and I doubt such things are normal. Usually, the oldest and tallest and strongest dandelions get plucked up and sent on their journey. But there you were little and sparkling and perfect and I have to believe the little girl just simply couldn’t help herself.
But because that little girl just couldn’t help herself, we all had to say goodbye. You had to begin that journey alone across the world. Leaving only pieces of yourself in your wake. The rest of us are at home, waiting for our time so we can one day maybe see each other again, crossing paths on our own grand journies. That wouldn’t be too scary.
But because you are not a dandelion, it is scary. I do not wish to say goodbye to my friend. I do not wish for you to start that lonely journey so young. I do not wish for you to leave us, your family, all alone waiting for our own time to see you once again. It is simply not fair.
And maybe it’s not fair because a dandelion is different. Because dandelions are special and unique. Maybe it’s because a dandelion is not a flower at all.
No, a dandelion is not a flower. It is so much more.
If I were little, you’d let me lick the spatula. You would embrace me with open arms as I rushed through the door to greet you, Pottery Barn backpack swinging side to side, eyes bright with curiosity and enchantment. You would remind me to dump my shoes outside, filled with playground sand, and I would chatter on about the alphabet, and letter people, and how I had been assigned to make a dessert that began with a “P”. You would nod, already informed by Mrs. Dickinson’s weekly newsletter, and pull out a can of syrup-soaked fruit. You would ask if I had heard of pineapple upside-down cake, and I would giggle at the silly name, and we would spend the afternoon making it together. You would stir as I added the ingredients until I wanted a turn, and once the stirring was over altogether, you would hand me a batter-covered spatula to devour while the cake rose in the oven. And I would inevitably get it all over myself, but you wouldn’t get mad or take it away because you knew that was going to happen anyway. And I’d stare up at you, sticky faced, smiling and smiling.
If I stared up at you, sticky faced, smiling and smiling, you would tell me I needed a bath. And we would walk back to your bathroom, the one with the big tub, and you would add food coloring and soap to the running water and watch my eyes widen as pink bubbles rolled away from the faucet. You would scrub my hair into a spike, and I would laugh at my reflection in the fogged up mirror because I looked funny with my hair sticking up like that. And you would laugh too, not because it was that funny, but because you loved me and the sound of my laughter. You would shade my eyes from shampoo with a gentle hand placed against my forehead, pouring plastic cupfuls of water over my hair. You would scoop me up in a dryer-warmed towel, hooded and monogrammed, and carry me to my bedroom. You’d rub lotion into my hands since I inherited Dad’s dry skin, and spray apple-scented detangler on my hair before brushing it out. And I’d look up at you, bleary eyed, yawning and yawning.
If I looked up at you, bleary eyed, yawning and yawning, you would say it was past my bedtime. You would help me get into my pajamas, polka-dotted and laundry-soft, and tuck me in nice and tight. You would sit at the edge of my bed and humor my requests: a glass of water, my night light on, just one more story. And you would sing to me, “Yesterday” by the Beatles, or anything else I asked for. I would ask you to turn up the night noises and you would know exactly what I meant by that. You would understand I needed to hear the sounds of you — the clinking of dinner plates, the hum of our dishwasher, the tunes of home improvement television — to feel safe enough to go to sleep. And you would listen, no matter how silly the request, and make as much racket as you could so that I could find some peace. You would come over, help quiet my mind by entrusting me with dream tasks of fantasy menu creation and party curation, and kiss my forehead goodnight. And I’d gaze up at you, heart filled, loving and loving.
But I’m not little. And you don’t let me lick the spatula anymore. You hold it back, asking if it’s the right choice for me to make. Asking if I expect to just keep going up in dress sizes. Asking if I am really hungry, since I just ate five hours ago. Asking if I wanted to join you on a soup cleanse because it made you feel great and because it helped you lose a few and because those two things are really the same, aren’t they? And I never saw you prouder than when I told you I was starving myself again, beaming as I spread measured teaspoons of powdered peanut butter on unsalted rice cakes and logged my calories of sugar free gum. Just like Mama. And I’m sorry. Really, more than anything else. I’m sorry that I got bigger. That I was the one who outgrew your love at the end of the day, measured in proportion to the pound. That I was the one who changed. I know that you just want your little girl back. The one who looked up at you, smiling and yawning and loving. But I grew up, and I got taller, and now I meet your eyes when we stand on opposite sides. And we are always standing on opposite sides. But I’ll still look at you, body changed, waiting and waiting for you to come over and love me where I am.
My happiness exists within the people that lie between reality and fiction.
I’ve marveled at them since I was a kid,
often wishing to meet them in my dreams.
They became a family of fighters,
one I’ve always considered my own.
But what does it feel like to be heard by them?
To be loved by them?
I do not know.
but oh, do I want to learn.
I wish I had adequate enough words to describe the hole I felt.
Maybe you filled it.
Maybe you left it bigger than before. . .
all I know is that each time your words cross my mind,
I feel it again,
even more deeply than the last time.
I will never understand what I’ve done to deserve the pain I’ve felt,
the pain you’ve caused.
I’d like to think that I was worth more to you
than unsent messages and unspoken words.
I molded myself to you in hopes that you would stay,
and now that you’re gone, I don’t even recognize myself.
But you didn’t mean it…
What is there to say when no one hears?
To be heard is to be understood, but I live in a world with deaf ears.
No one hears, no one understands.
That leaves a lot of silence between me and people. . .
the world, even.