I am a flower pots' worst nightmare, a serial killer to the green and growing. I have, in the past, murdered every single plant I ever owned. My poor mother tried to instill a love of gardening in me. From a young age she showed me bulbs and seeds, cuttings and vines, taught me the difference between annuals and perennials. She had gardens at all our houses, beautiful, luscious, cottage gardens, absolutely wild in nature and yet perfectly planned and executed. At White Grange, she gave me a bit of earth to tend and manage myself. She bought me plants, helped me design the layout, and told me how often to water. Needless to say, nothing really lasted except the English ivy, who nobody could kill, not even the bazillion felines we own that consistently urinate or sleep on it. Deep down inside, I just didn't really care enough to prioritize it. I liked the pretty blooms but not enough to remember to water or tend to them.
So I stood there with Caleb in the summer sunshine, knowing this about myself and owning it. The succulent arrangement was calling my name, and I, in turn, fought a little battle as to whether or not I should reach out and answer. I decided to take on the adventure.
"Caleb. I want this succulent planter. I know I kill everything I touch, but something in me just needs this." As the words came out of my mouth, I fought back a choke in my throat. Good heavens, was I getting emotional about a plant? Who was this? I felt I barely knew myself. The Katie of six months ago would have laughed in my face. Caleb, being more than a good sport and feeling generous, climbed up onto one of the display tables to reach the perfect little pot I had specified. At 6'3", the boy has long arms but it still took quite a bit of work to fetch the one I wanted. I was grateful, we bought the plant, and went home.
I placed it in the middle of our living room while we put our other purchases away, tidied up, ate a snack, and cooled off. After actually buying the thing, I avoided it like the plague. I didn't want to face the plant. I could feel myself becoming vulnerable around it. I honestly kind of started to hate it and wondered how long I could leave it there and not have to look at it.
"You going to put that thing outside or what because it can't stay there." I hear from the bathroom.
Oh, husband. Curse your practicality when I'm on the cusp of an emotional breakdown.
I went into the living room, plopped on the floor, held the plant a second, and burst into tears. Sobs shook me, my nose began to run, and those awful little heaving noises I always make when I'm crying really hard started erupting. Caleb ran from the bathroom and threw his arms around me, demanding the reason I was so sad. I could tell he was trying to refrain from smiling when he asked "Do you not like the plant? I bought it because you said you really wanted it!" Fresh tears, no words. Finally, I choked out
"My mom. It reminds me of my mom."
I bought the plant because my mother loves plants. As a 21-year old newlywed who hadn't ever really moved out before and had the wonderful company of her mom nearly every day of her life before marriage, I was missing her something fierce. I can't just hop in the car and drive through Dallas every day to see her. If it weren't for modern technology and her recent conversion to the world of texting, I really don't know where I would be. I daily think about her and when I do, I try to remember some of the happiest and most helpful moments of our relationship before I was married. Our biggest talks, secret laughs, and my favorite memories happened while I sat on the rock wall or wooden bench, watching her head bob up and down from amidst the growing things, her hands filthy, knee pads on, and a smile spread across her face. That pot filled with dirt and succulents connected me with my mother's happiness, it reminded me of home.
Since that day, I have spent approx. 10 hours researching hearty cacti, succulents, and houseplants that don't need too much water and can survive Texas heat. I bought my first watering can and hand trowel. I went to White Grange and got some cuttings of my mother's Wandering Jew and Cosmos, which she bundled up with care along with a wildflower bouquet, farm fresh eggs, and cucumbers and green beans we harvested from her vegetable patch.
I went back to the garden center today and bought some clay pots, good soil, and 5 new plants to add to my collection (Caleb uh...doesn't know about that yet so let's keep it our little secret, mmkay? :) and began propagating one of my original succulents. I bought the first plant because I missed my mother, but as I began caring for it, I began loving it for it's own merit and the joy it was bringing to me in my house, staying alive and looking cheery on my porch. Some little light bulb finally turned on.
For you see, my mother the gardener planted a love of the growing things in me long ago. I thought I wouldn't ever care, I thought I was a plant killer, I thought I had a brown thumb. What really happened is that the seeds she had dropped and covered so gently in my heart just weren't ready to start growing yet. It took me leaving her house and starting my own for that appreciation to take root and poke its head into the sunshine.
Thanks for planting, Mother. Those seeds did come to fruition but I have always been, as you know, sort of a late bloomer.