Firewheel: A Mother-Daughter Story

Before the land was anyone’s but its own, a Mother and Daughter lived in these fields. The floor of their home was the prairie grass, the walls the wild rose bushes, and the ceilings the giant-leafed sycamore trees.

            Mother’s work was to care for the seedlings and help them to grow. Daughter always accompanied Mother. Daughter carried a set of paint pots created and blessed by Mother Earth. Her job was to create new flowers—unique varieties with varied and vivid colors and subtle shadings to add to the beauty of the world they lived in.

            Mother and Daughter spent their days working together. And when they needed, they would rest near a spring and drink its waters and eat a simple lunch. And afterward Daughter would playfully ask, “Will you spin me, now, Mother? Will you spin me around and around?”

            Mother would sometimes say, “No, Daughter, not this time,” or “Wait until tonight,” or “Surely, you are too old for that now.” Yet, she was always half-teasing, for she loved the game. She would stand in a clearing and clasp the girl’s hands tight in hers and give her a wink to signal she was starting.

            Then she would begin spinning, first slowly, then gaining momentum, until Daughter flew perpendicular to her, her long yellow hair streaming out in a spiraling gold fan, while Mother held her place in the middle, her auburn hair also spiraling around her. Daughter would giggle and laugh and scream, while Mother smiled and watched Daughter arching away from her like a magnificent refracted light.

            For years Mother and Daughter tended to their duties to the earth, and for years, they played the spinning game. Then one day, after they had finished their work, Daughter headed back home without even asking to be spun. The next day was the same. On the third day, Mother said after they finished their work and Daughter was preparing to leave, “Don’t you want me to spin you today, Daughter?”

            Daughter hesitated, a “no” clearly on her lips and then she stopped as if embarrassed. Mother looked at Daughter, knowing she could not ask Father Time to begin walking backward.

            Daughter said, “I have to go. I’m meeting someone later.”

            Mother walked home slowly, rubbing her arms, noticing a new ache in her muscles she had never felt before, thinking of Daughter, and smelling the wild, heavy scent of honeysuckle drifting up from the thicket near the creek.

            Many moons later, after both Mother and Daughter passed from this world, the earth created a flower in honor of their relationship. It was bright red in the center like the hair of Mother and yellow on the tips of the petals like Daughter’s blonde locks, shooting out like fire in the circle Mother spun.

            This is Oklahoma’s official state wildflower. It’s most commonly known as blanketflower or Indian blanket. It is also called Gaillardia. And some people call it Fire Wheel.

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