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Her Daughter

Updated: Sep 28, 2023

By Danya Do

My sunflower, in a field of sunflowers. The best one, unfurling her white petaled dress as she scatters and crushes the grass beneath her tiny feet. Big doe eyes blinking up at me, a cocoa brown. My daughter. Her dimples dip into the soft edges of her joyous grin and voluptuous cheeks, the gap where she lost her first tooth a month ago prominent, perfect.

I watch her twirl amongst the gold, the creamy yellow, the mahogany, the milky ivory. She’s a bit clumsy with it, her legs catching and stumbling as the floral she disperses in her excitement rains down on her. It disturbs the usual still of the meadow, yet I couldn’t care less. Not even when she -the mischievous girl- sprinkles her chaos on me, the petals distorting the messily scribbled pages of my sketchbook. It will continue to lie skewed, anyway.

My sunflower, dancing under the setting sun. All giggles and squeals, innocent delight shining as bright as the colors fanned out in worship of her. They bend and weave to her rhythm, attentively listening to her babbles and high tales of princesses and princes and dragons, heroes, heroines, rainbows and




She doesn’t know how much I adore her. Can’t even begin to fathom that the ink, the pencil, and the paint strokes that lie in my sketchbook depict her, lined with devotion and the fondness of a mother that has held and still holds her sunflower in the carves of her arms, chest, and heart so dearly. The drawings so delicately traced amongst the very meadows she dances in, her kin. Morning espresso to accompany and hush the weary, wrinkled hands and matured mind of a troubled woman and her fantastical flowery creations. All for her sunflower, espresso so like those owlish eyes, sloshing into one another in the sketchbook dedicated to her muse. A sunflower that almost wilted and nearly left her godforsaken mother with nothing.

I was thirty-six when I conceived her. The pungent smell of newly painted plaster, sharp and metallic against the bright white of the hospital while I lay exhausted in my designated bed. When she was born, my sunflower was dotted with bruises, a gashly blue. I was told she carried a fever, and when I cradled her, she felt blistering in contrast to the frigid, pitiful body she was struggling in. The anxiousness of whatever went wrong was unearthed: she was discovered to have cancer. Cancer. It had wrapped its greedy, pockmarked fingers around my daughter’s throat, fighting to claim her blood and tainting her with the loom of death. The agony of birthing my first child, only to witness her own newfound agony; disparity and denial seeping through the cracks of my head, the pores of my skin, and later, out in the form of water dripping down my cheeks. Eventually, she was taken from me to be treated. The chaos of panicked staff and patients were but a blur, my only thought then in the haze of senile blue -blue like my sunflower’s bruises, blue like the faint lines marking the veins on her wrist, blue, so blue- was of my daughter.

It was a rough six months, for the two of us. I was but an art-crazed widow then, so swallowed by my own misery, drowning in psalms of paint and heartache for a lost husband then and perhaps, soon, a daughter. My furniture and walls are still splattered with my bitter anguish, the long-dried paint peeling and forever embedded. She was left at the hospital for chemotherapy, left with people who couldn’t possibly care less for her, left with surgical masks and the unnerving stench of a mixture of blood and unnatural cleanliness. And I had imagined this, the fear, and despaired more. Oh, those six months of torment; I am grateful that she has lived.

My sunflower has shed her blue bruises and chemotherapy, the strength of the sun settled in her soul, beaming. She has taught me much about mothering, about living, and I could only wish to keep up with her. White pettled dress against cocoa brown eyes, buttered skin as she dances amongst the meadows of other sunflowers. My sketchbook is dedicated to her, my callused wrinkled hands that couldn’t capture even the barest glimpse of her, yet I do my best anyway. My muse, my love, my sunflower. The worn paint and the ink haven’t yet scrubbed off, but I am certain that I can try my best and be born anew. For you.


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