I’m a person who’s pretty easy to please when it comes to gifts. I don’t want expensive things, I believe the thought truly does count, and if all else fails, any ghastly errors inflicted by the giver of goodwill can be remedied by the customer service desk at most stores. But there’s one gift I hate, and I’m not just talking about a mild dislike either. Nope, this emotion belongs firmly under the category of abhorrence. Plants. If you want to wipe the smile right off my face, then give me a life form that requires photosynthesis in order to survive and you can drop the serotonin in my brain to dangerous levels. It’s not the fact that this is a gift that requires ongoing care that bothers me; but rather, it’s the searing seeds of guilt that each greenhouse offering embeds into my soul that causes me to cringe at the very sight of potting soil. This chronicle throws sunlight all over the foliage skeletons in my closet.
In order for you to understand my stance against plants, you must know that I possess two superpowers. First, I can roll out of bed, get dressed, and be in the car in less than 10 minutes flat. And that’s without taking any hygiene shortcuts. Second, I can suck the life out of anything exhaling oxygen in less than a month. To say I have a black thumb is putting it mildly. If the Grim Reaper ever goes into horticulture, he’ll be stopping by my place for tips. I first discovered this mutant power in Asia.
The plants arrived on my doorstep as a birthday present. Half were a flowering variety that hung from white, plastic baskets while the other half were grounded and saw no need to flatter the world with blossoms. The last thing the man said before he left was to water them and they’d be fine. What a fibber. I should have known to scrutinize this statement since he issued it as he was pocketing the cash for the goods.
The van squealed away from the curb sending a cloud of black exhaust into the air, a certain foreshadowing of the doom that was soon to befall the new arrivals. Had they known their prognosis, they would have leapt from their pedestals and nails and sucked in those toxic fumes in a way that any compassionate spectator would have labeled as euthanasia given their imminent demise. If the lady three doors down could have gotten in touch with Dr. Kevorkian, I’m sure she could have built a case worthy of his services that warranted a plane ticket to the Southern Hemisphere. But my ten plants had no one to champion their cause. They were left at my mercy, and I killed them one by one.
Don’t misunderstand me. I tried to take care of them. I watered them, put them in places of sunlight, fed them special food that came in an array of colors, but they still persisted in dying, leaving me with sap all over my hands. They drooped, they shed petals like tears and they turned colors that look good only on Hershey products. My neighbor, whose front yard looked like something out of Nebuchadnezzar’s hanging gardens, shook her head when she surveyed the ailing leaves and stems.
“I don’t know how you kill them so dead. These flowers tough. These flowers strong. These flowers not die so easy. What you do?”
I honestly couldn’t tell her. She listened as I catalogued my methods and seemed sympathetic, but make no mistake about it: when they went on trips, I was never the one left in charge of the Bushes of Babylon at her house. When I left Asia, I told myself that the problem was that I didn’t know how to deal with tropical vegetation. I was obviously a temperate climate kind of gal. Yeah, right.
That’s when people started giving me plants as gifts. My former Dean, the parents association, family members . . . all people with good intentions who have unwittingly become accomplices in one of the greatest plant-killing sprees our generation has ever seen. That lovely white rose bush I was given for organizing prom? I somehow put the who-do on it because it developed black spots and turned into broom bristles in less than a month. The red poinsettia that the kids were selling to raise funds for a church mission trip? Let’s just say it became a martyr for its faith. And don’t even get me started on the finicky orchids people have given me. As soon as they place them in my hands, I hear a funeral dirge start up in the background. I feel sorrow and an urge to wear an armband because something so lovely is destined to die, but I just don’t know what to do about it.
I have a theory that this gene affects only the women of the family. My brother has a beautiful yard with an assortment of organisms that produce pollen and blossoms, and to date he has been the only one capable of thwarting my mutant power by nursing along a rosebush for six months before he deposited it outside my door. And I’ll say one thing for that budding bruiser: it knows how to take a punch. Without this fierce-some passion to live, it’d never survive a winter in my yard. Cover plants with plastic during the bitter cold? Sounds like suffocation to me, so my bush will just tough it out in spite of the deficit in winter apparel.
My sister has the same plant-killing gene that I possess, but not to the same extreme. Even so, one afternoon Jerry was touring me around his extensive day lily gardens, showing me rare and exotic species. His pride was evident over the profusion of beauty surrounding us, so Teena spoke up to reassure him.
“Don’t worry, honey. If something happens to you, I’ll take good care of your day lilies.”
Jerry snorted in reply. “If something happens to me, just go ahead and spray the whole lot of them with Round-Up and put them out of their misery. No need to make them suffer like that.” So I knew then that my specialty ran in the family, heavy to the female line.
I wish that my life were different. I wish that I could cultivate plants and create beautiful gardens. I wish that my thumb would lose that “Someone, please amputate me!” look and turn green. But we must all accept our weaknesses and failures in life, and I have come to terms with mine. Now if I could only get others to agree. Let’s just hope that the next fellow who comes courting is wise enough to leave the bouquet of flowers at home and bring me a bowl of pasta instead. Now that’s the way to woo a woman.
© 2013 – Traci Carver