the origin of clouds (a novel)#10

            She was three years old, the age when children begin to notice that there are things that big people call answers, for why the sky is blue and grass is green and the moon goes away when the sun comes out and where stars come from. She thought there might be answers for “Why do daddies make mommies cry?” Susan’s mother did not answer. Perhaps Laura did not believe that words were sufficient. Or, maybe she did not dare risk expressing something she never wanted to admit. Some answers are all the things we tell ourselves to avoid disturbing the surface of our lives.  

            Laura lived in a world of magic. If Susan and her brothers and sister wanted to know, “Why do birds fly?” Laura cutout large paper wings and tied them to their arms with shoelaces. She stood them up on a kitchen chair, or sofa, or coffee table, as if they were perched high atop a tree in the forest, and held out her undulating arms, chirping like a mother bird instructing her babies in the mechanics of flight.

            If they asked, “How do bees make honey?” Laura took them outside to pick a bouquet of dandelions from the yard and told them the story of “the hungry little bees whose wings were too small and delicate to travel the long journey to the nectar trees and the kind yellow flowers who shared their pollen with the bees.” She tickled their ears with the tiny, bristly petals, as if the bees could still be heard buzzing around inside the dandelions. And when the short yellow petals turned to puffy, white straw she told them it was dandelion snow. She told them that if ever they were to awake in the middle of the night they should be careful not to make a sound or they would disturb the fairies busy at work, collecting the magic snow to cover over them in sleep and protect them in their dreams.

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