I can eat my own flowers
Why my family keeps Poison Control on speed dial; illustration by Lissa Mathis
A long time ago in a living room far, far away, a stream of intergalactic green barf tumbles out of my cousin Sean’s mouth, landing on a pile of clean laundry. My stunned aunt stops folding clothes and turns to the two of us for answers. In the moment I’m too distracted to focus on her, though, because my favorite pair of pants rests on top of that pile. Just one minute ago they were fresh and neatly folded; now, they are sad and dripping with space puke.
I’m a picky little kid—I only eat certain foods, like certain people, and wear certain clothes. The pair of pants my cousin just threw up on are a white cotton blend with vibrant colors—magenta, blue, and yellow flowers. My attraction to flowers is why I allowed my mom to add the pants into my carefully curated wardrobe. Sadly, my attraction to flowers is also what’s caused their vandalization.
I am invited to sleep over at my aunt’s house for the weekend; she has a son who is my age, and we often have sleepovers so we can play and watch Disney movies. That day, after sugary cereal and Saturday morning cartoons, Sean and I head outside to his rather expansive backyard. They live in the country and have trees upon trees to climb, rock piles at the end of their property, and a small cluster of apple trees to hide in. I live in the city with sidewalks and sharply drawn property lines. When I am in the country, surrounded by so much open air, I might as well be in space.
In the spirit of being in space, Star Wars is what we decide to play that morning; it is popular with kids all around the nation. We draw straws over who is Han Solo and who is Luke Skywalker. I am a child of great principle, so I never let the boys bully me into playing “the girl.” I am either Han or Luke, and that is non-negotiable. Had I not been too young to understand what a badass Princess Leia is, I would have jumped at the chance to play her. Instead, I honor Leia’s badassery by refusing to let the boys boss me around. If any of our younger cousins are ever around to play with us, we grant them the privilege of playing Chewy. Admittedly, it is a bit of typecasting on our parts—who better than an annoying sibling to play the lumbering, overgrown dog.
We designate a willow tree to be our Millennium Falcon; it has the most inhabitable system of branches, and every one is used as a different chamber of the ship. We climb in and begin our exploratory voyage through the galaxy. Midway through the trek, our ship brakes. I hear my cousin Han Solo yelling at me. “Luke! We’re stranded here, we need to find food.” We hop out of the tree and on to the new planet.
Han and I soon come upon a row of fresh plants. We know immediately that this celestial roughage is the only thing saving us from the slow death of starvation, whereby our bodies would float aimlessly in the cosmos while our bereft parents wonder what happened. We take a moment to think about it because these plants were in enemy territory but ultimately decide if we want to live, they are our only hope.
If my aunt looks up from the laundry and out the window, she will see me and Sean sneaking into the neighbor’s garden. We’ve been told many a time to stay off his property. This neighbor is sinister and moody, a real-life Darth Vader, and his only goal is to sabotage our missions and destroy our world.
But, the looming threat of death makes you do crazy things, so we ignore previous warnings and crouch down low to sneak into the garden. We pluck some prized daffodils up by their roots and start eating them. They have kind of a bitter taste, and the stems are definitely not as tasty as the blossoms. Are they full of toxins? Who cares! We throw caution to the wind and chew them down fast. Look—Skywalker is just trying to live long enough to see Ewoks again.
Once we finish eating, we crawl out of the garden, being careful not to agitate old Iron Lungs. We hop back onto the Millennium Falcon, which is miraculously running again; after we kick it in gear and have some mindless chatter about Yoda, we arrive back home.
Safely back on the ground, I hear my aunt calling us in for our earthly lunch. We run back in the house, but before my aunt can get us to the table, Sean grips his torso. “I don’t feel good.” He then lurches forward and spews a bunch of liquid all over the clean laundry; it is a color as green as Luke’s lightsaber.
My aunt is concerned. When did he start feeling bad? (Probably right after we ate all those daffodils, which I don’t believe are approved by the FDA.) Am I feeling sick, too? (No, but that’s because I’m a Jedi, and I’m impervious to dark-sided flowers; like, OMG, don’t you know anything about Star Wars?).
My aunt takes Sean to get cleaned up, leaving me to stare at my desecrated pants. Later, they are washed repeatedly, but bleach is no match for daffodil venom. I give up the pants and learn my lesson. No matter what galaxy you visit, flowers should always stay in the garden.