Select Page

Transporting us to the past

They are not flowers.

Not really.

Queen Anne’s lace.


Wild daisy.


Black-eyed Susan.

Birdsfoot trefoil.

Oh, they look like flowers, for sure.

Wildflowers, most people would say.

Even weeds, to some.

But that’s not what they really are.

What they really are, is time machines.

And they take me back, without fail, to summers past. Summers in the south. Summers along the paths and dirt roads of central Virginia.

Summers on my grandparents’ farm.

As one of roughly 8,462 kids in my family,1 I never had the kind of vacations as a kid that other families might have had. We had no beach trips, no camping trips, no Niagara Falls and definitely no hotels or motels.

There were just too many of us for that, so our vacations were at one place and one only: the Farm. In capital letters. Owned by my mother’s oldest brother, my Uncle Bill, and occupied starting in 1950 by my grandparents Clay and Opal (Robertson) Cottrell.

Every year, when school let out, my folks would load the car up in New Jersey and head south. My father would train it back north to work, but the rest of us? We didn’t head back north until school was about to start again.

(A side note: this often caused issues with our southern cousins, whose school year ended in May and started in August, when schools in the north didn’t end until June and didn’t start until after Labor Day. They were Not Happy when we were still at the Farm when they had to go back to school. We were Not Happy when they were already at the Farm in May and we were sweating in un-air-conditioned classrooms in mid-to-late June.)

There are so many things I remember about those summers at the farm.

But nothing takes me back there, instantly, without fail, and no matter where I encounter them, than the time machines of roadside wildflowers.

Abundant along the backroads, paved and mostly not, of Fluvanna County, Virginia.

More than abundant everywhere on the farm.

We gathered them in bouquets for our mothers and grandmother.

We weaved them into crowns and chains.

We decorated our hair… and our cousins’ hair.2

It isn’t that there weren’t any flowers at home in Colorado or New Jersey or California where we lived from time to time. It’s just that the more manicured suburban subdivisions where we spent our school years ran more to roses and geraniums and the like.

But the wildflowers of the roadside… they are the time machines of the mind.

The flowers … bringing to mind the stories… of my summers past.

Summers in the south.

Summers along the paths and dirt roads of central Virginia.

Summers on my grandparents’ farm.


Images: JG Russell; black-eyed susan by Jason Hollinger, chicory by lmmahood, and daisy by Jina Lee, via Wikimedia Commons

  1. Okay, so I have seven brothers and sisters, but no matter how many there were at any given moment, it seemed like 8,462.
  2. Whether they wanted us to or not…
Print Friendly, PDF & Email