Dandelion-Down by Lucy Larcom

glowing dandelion seed overlooking field

FLOSS-HAIR ran out to play in the sunshine among the dandelions, as she had played many an April morning before. Grandmamma watched her from the doorway where she sat spinning,—her little bright head in its halo of silky gold swaying and flitting among the goldfinches, with a motion as bird-like and airy as theirs. Suddenly Floss-Hair made a hovering pause over the wavy grass-buds, and turned a questioning glance towards the doorway.

Grandmamma looked very lovely to Floss-Hair from where she stood. A silvery sunbeam had lighted up the motes that danced around her spinning-wheel, so that she seemed to sit and spin behind a veil of gossamer; and in her gray dress, with her quiet eyes smiling out from under her white, smooth hair, she was more than beautiful: she might have sat for the picture of a saint.

Floss-Hair broke a downy seed-globe from its stalk, and blew it one, two, three times. The plumes fluttered around her in the air; not one was left on the stem. “Grandmamma wants me,” she said, and ran back to the door.

“What was it stopped your play, little one?”

“Why, there is scarcely a dandelion left down there in the grass, where so many grew, and in their places are rows of round gray heads, standing up like ghosts. The lawn is not so pleasant as it used to be. Why need flowers die, grandmamma?”

The soft eyes smiled a little more tenderly, in answer. “Did you see where the seed-feathers went, Floss-Hair, when you blew them from the stem?”

“O, into the air, to sail off on the clouds, and be drowned in the sunset, perhaps.”

“No, no, dear; some of them glided away to hide under the velvet grass of the lawn, where they will sleep all summer and all winter, and next spring will come out again, wide-awake young dandelions. And some hurried out to the road-sides and field-borders, where in years to come poor folk will seek their roots for food and medicine. And see there,—the yellow-birds are fluttering over the dandelion-stems by dozens; they will take the gray plumes to weave into the lining of their nests, and hundreds of little, shivering bird-breasts will be thankful, another year, that the golden blossoms you like so well were changed to dandelion-down. It is better to be useful than pretty, pet: and you see that a flower’s going to seed is only its last and best way of doing good.”

“So the dandelions are spinning silk to line bird’s-nests with,” said Floss-Hair; “and grandmamma sits and spins for me. Dear grandmamma, your hair is gray and soft, like dandelion-down,—I hope no cruel wind will ever blow you away from me.”

“But, little one, my hair was once all fly-away gold, like yours. Call me Dandelion-Down,—the phantom of a little Floss-Hair that played among the meadow-blossoms seventy years ago.”

“No, no, grandmamma, I will not call Dandelion-Down a ghost any more; it is a little, common, staring, yellow flower turned to an angel, scattering blessings about the world, like a white-haired grandmamma I know, who has kind thoughts always ready to give everybody. It is not a bad thing, after all, for dandelions and little girls to bloom and fade away. If people could only be sure of growing good and lovely as they grow old!”

“Good is lovely, Floss-Hair,” said grandmamma.

The next spring little Floss-Hair strayed silently among the dandelions, for the chair in the doorway was vacant, and the spinning-wheel was still. But the child’s heart was not wholly sad. Her memory was a nest of warm and tender thoughts, that seemed fluttering back to her from the dear, silver-haired friend, now one of the white angels of heaven.

And Floss-Hair never forgot the last lesson her grandmamma taught her, while she was yet an earth-angel,—the beautiful lesson of the Dandelion-Down.

Title: Our Young Folks 1866-07 Volume 2, Issue 7
Date of first publication: 1866
Author: J. T. Trowbridge, Gail Hamilton and Lucy Larcom