She twirls in her living room, a little girl nearing six, staring up at her ceiling fan, trying to keep her spin at its pace. She feels a wonderful sense of play, an illusory sobriety, until her body says “no more,” and she falls to the floor. Dizzy and hungover, she’ll stand and she’ll stumble, and laugh because her vision won’t straighten. The funny feeling in her stomach will soon subside, and she’ll spin again and again, and faster and faster, until she makes the blades of the ceiling fan look like they’re standing still.
She’ll hear her mother scream “Who the hell is she?!” at her father.
“I swear to God I didn’t do anything!” he’ll respond.
“That stupid bitch! You slept with her. I can’t fu–” and Mom will stop to lower her volume, but her voice will be in earshot. “I want a divorce,” she’ll say.
Mom and Dad will scream as they always have. And still our little girl will twirl, thinking of nothing in particular except how, maybe, to catch her fan.
She stands out in school, but in no totally abnormal way: She’s too fat. Too boyish. Too quiet. Her classmates ridicule her because she can’t stay in the lines when she colors, because she dresses in cheap clothes, because her crayons are so dull that their tips are flat and their Crayola wrapping paper must go.
Friends for her are few, and her birthday parties are barren. She has a stocking at Christmastime stocked with fruit, but the produce stickers are always left on the apples and oranges, and she knows that Santa isn’t real.
Ms. Jenkins, the Guidance Counselor, will tell her that she isn’t “poor,” as the bullies say: “And you aren’t fat, either. And you aren’t a boy. You are YOU! And you’re pretty awesome to me.”
When she’s at home and allowed outside, she’ll walk around the her apartment, looking for ladybugs, and picking flowers for Ms. Jenkins for the next time she sees her—flowers that Mom will throw away because, “Those aren’t flowers, honey. They’re weeds.”
“They look like flowers to me,” she’ll say. “See, this one here’s got purply things on it. And this one is yellow and smells pretty. And this one—oh, this one—this one you you must be very careful with. Or else all those white feathers will blow away.”
“That’s a dandelion,” Mom will say as she grabs the flowers and throws them out. Upset but resilient, our little girl will go to her too-hot living room to twirl and to play.
There’s something here, spinning under this ceiling fan. To many, it’s nothing at all special: It stands out only in that it’s so absolutely ordinary, so plain and so average, so bland, that people note it only with mild pity: it’s exactly halfway between a noteworthy tale in poverty and negligence and a tale of excitement and “potential.”
She won’t go to bed hungry. She won’t worry with having a bed to sleep in or whether she’ll have enough money to buy lunch the next day. She’ll make it to school tomorrow morning and every morning thereafter, and she’ll see a doctor when she is sick. But, as it is, she’ll never take a dance class or perform a recital. She won’t have the pink bedroom and the canopy bed she so craves. She’ll miss vacations to Disney World and what it’s like to fly on a plane.
It’s nothing all that bad (relative to the stories of too many others), but opportunities for her will arrive only when she exhibits marvelous talent in some art or on some field, or when she shows exemplary intelligence or breathtaking creativity. Her future will otherwise depend on her luck, and on her means.
To so many, she is no one to lose sleep over. She will be OK. But to her, she will persist no matter how often she is cut down or weeded out. She will persist, a dandelion in twirl.