The plant my friend Irene gave me for my birthday was beautiful. It seemed gloriously happy sitting on the window sill in the sunlight that dappled through what was becoming a wintery skeleton of a garden just outside. And those beautiful pink flowers, they bloomed prolifically.
I don’t deny that I have an inexplicable soft spot for the scraggly plants on the metal cart at the back of the garden center. It’s not clear whether my sympathy for the barely alive, half-priced underdog speaks to some worrisome personality trait, or if it’s me just being cheap. But never mind that. I’m only saying this lush, healthy addition to my family of plants (all twenty-two of them), it put the rest of the household residents to shame and was a little more than intimidating to us all.
So when Irene offered to stop by every week to take care of the plants while we were away late last year, I’ll admit it was more than mildly tempting; feeling certain her deft gardening would improve all of their chances considerably.
True to everything 2020, I elected to keep these plants home alone. But how does one know how much water a plant will drink during a month of being home alone? Better to err on the side of caution we decided, and so we set them up with individual drip lines connected to buckets and buckets of water.
All that extra humidity did not sit well with my piano, as it turns out, but the plants did better than expected. They flourished! The anthurium sprouted a second flower, and the mystery plant I’ve been nursing since last spring developed delicate purple blooms. It was a wildly successful experiment that we were not at all hesitant to try again on our second trip away.
Once again we set up the drip lines, minus a few buckets in deference to the piano. But it’s exactly this sort of moment in life, when you think you’ve finally mastered something, that it all goes awry.
By the time of this second trip, the weather had turned frigid. And if one thing goes wrong, it’s permission for all hell to break loose.
We lost power for several days during the snow storm we thankfully missed, but then the smoke detector battery gave out, as evidenced by the relentless ‘chirp-chirp-chirp’ which scared the dogs hopelessly that first night back home. The propane tank ran dry causing the heating system to quit working altogether, and it was forty degrees inside the house.
So it is with deepest regret that I convey the very sad news that this beautiful, obviously full-priced, most perfect plant among my family of plants has died. It took me several days of shock and disbelief to realize none of them could be salvaged. Some were dead on arrival while others hung on for several days giving me a quite dreadful sense of false hope.
I have never, ever thrown out a plant that had any amount of life left in it, but I walked every one of those gnarly plants to the debris pile – half alive or not at all – and I have never looked back. 😊
The title of this post was adapted from the 1971 book by Albert Cullum. Geranium is a poetic ode to teachers, spoken from the voice of babes begging them to open up and have heart; a rallying cry to educators to think as a child and remember what it was like to be young and curious.