Cattail Catastrophe

It was an amazing day. It was one of those sunny and almost breezy and just completely perfect August afternoons that is finally not too hot to be outside.

“Mom, let’s go to the park! Please?” All 3 kids join in the chorus.

“One with river ?” asked the 2 year old.

So we load up in the old somewhat reliable minivan, and head for the park. The one with the river that is actually a small creek but I don’t correct the little guy. The creek can be a river today, just for him, I am sure it won’t mind and may actually appreciate it.

Arriving at the park, the kids wait not so patiently to be unbuckled from their car seats, and go running into the park with absolute joy at the change of scenery. Those joyous expressions are why it is so hard to refuse their requests. Watching them light up with delight at the sight of swings, slides, and of course the “river” makes nothing else matter in the world.

After spinning, swinging, climbing, and sliding, it is time for our nature walk. We head over to the footbridge and stop in the middle of it to look down in to the rushing rapids (barely moving 4 inches of water) to look for minnows, frogs, water hopper bugs, or any other critter needing some cool water. The kids experiment with the physics of buoyancy as they toss pebbles (nope), sticks (depends on size/shape), and leaves (yes!) into the creek. They set finish lines downstream and race leaf boats while I enjoy the sun on my back and the image of our 4 shadows on the water below. The minnows school in our shadows and cross the creek with us it seems.

We hear one lonely cricket in the tall weeds. We head towards it and know we are close when it stops abruptly. I teach them to crouch down, be silent and still. I move the weeds aside with a long stick, ever so slowly. We all hold our breath in anticipation of discovering the cricket’s hidden lair.

“There he is!” Shouts the 2 year old as the cricket jumps away from us and we all fall over groaning at his lack of restraint, then punish him with tickles.

As we roll in the grass, we notice something else jumping too. Grasshopper! We follow it, hopping just like it, to the cattail lined edge of the creek.

“Ooooh, so soft,” says the 8 year old, as she pets a large, brown, and very plush cattail top.

The 2 year old can’t reach it, so I snap one off and hand it to him. He is delighted and carries it with him up the slide, on the swing, and over the bridge, occasionally holding it in the air like an Olympic torch. He still has his treasure when it is time to head home, and I allow him to bring it into the van. It looked harmless to me.

We pull out of the parking lot, and barely make it around the corner when the giggling starts. The ‘I’m not so sure I should be giggling, but this is just too funny’ kind of giggling. Any seasoned mom knows this is not good. I look in the rearview mirror and see a cattail being waved around, like the toddler was directing an orchestra. Relieved at such an innocent cause for the giggle, I settled into driving home and focused my thoughts on planning dinner and the rest of the evening.

The giggles turned into guffaws, and then into hysterical, crazy shrieks of laughter. I look in my mirror again, and I can barely see my kids. All three are hidden in some sort of white cloud. In a matter of seconds I was also in the cloud. A cloud of fuzzy pollen-like seeds had instantly turned my minivan into a snowglobe. It was getting thicker and thicker and I had no idea what was happening, where they were all coming from. Then I caught a glimpse in the mirror, my darling was shaking the seeds out of that innocent looking cattail! The brown, solid looking cattail was full of tiny white seeds like a party popper full of dandelion heads.

“Stop shaking the cattail!” I scream, and take a moment realizing this was not the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever screamed at my kids, but near the top of the list. As I opened my mouth to scold them, my tongue was instantly coated in the fuzzy and slightly sweet seeds.

I start spitting, and opening all the power windows to get the seed storm outside. That was an extremely bad idea. The new wind currents caused turbulence that energized the seeds and made them dip and swirl like little fighter jets at an air show. It also caused them to be released at a much quicker rate, either due to the extra air, or the extra excitement of the toddler, not sure which. The kids are ecstatic. It was like someone had shaken the snowglobe we were traveling in, and used to call a minivan.

My tongue, still a bit fuzzy, was getting itchy. My eyelashes and nostrils were full of the little hitchhikers. My lungs were getting tight and wheezy. Panic was setting in to this normally calm mom. Luckily the park was not far from home. I pull into our driveway, unbuckle everyone, remove cattail from kids and order that it stays outside, and make a mad dash for the medicine cupboard and life saving Benadryl and albuterol. I was getting quite dizzy.

Puff. Puff. Swallow. Scream! I look at kids and then myself, we nearly looked tarred and feathered. Run back outside, shake us all out, and head in for a shower. All while my husband is standing there and then says, “How was your day?” with a devilish grin. I run past him without a word, on a mission to get the fuzzy invaders off of me. Meds kick in and I feel much better after the shower. I go down to calmly explain what happened to my husband and ask him to help clean up the van.

“Hflepr ndl lrp” I said, and then realized that didn’t sound right when he looked confused. I tried again.

“Rerrrhfl nddddl ppprrr” I stressed each syllable that time. Everyone stopped moving, stared at me, and burst out laughing. They didn’t know my tongue was swollen. I didn’t either until I had tried talking. Now that I investigated, I could no longer close my mouth completely, or bend or twist my tongue. It didn’t hurt, but it was quite big, and dangled out just a bit like a panting dog.

I write a note to my husband to call my doctor and ask if I can take more Benadryl or if I had to go to ER. This was a new one for me. He talks to my doctor and explains the situation in between suppressed laughter. I hear the doctor asking for clarification. “Excuse me sir, did you say she ate a cattail?”

So some more Benadryl was in order, and we were to be ready to zoom to the E.R. if anything else decided to swell or if I had trouble breathing. I slept nicely, due to the Benadryl, and by morning every part of me was back to the normal size. Hubby was very kind and vacuumed the disaster of a van, though some seeds are still stuck here and there to remind us of that adventure. I still laugh when I see them.

My children taught me some valuable lessons that day: do not take nature home uncontained, things are not always what they appear, and most important, life is much better on the outside of the snowglobe.

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