MY LIFE - No green thumb

MY LIFE - No green thumb

I ran across this column yesterday while looking for something else and although it was written more than 30 years ago, it still made me smile. I hope it will amuse you, too.

Kids are real suckers for plants, and my mother, the Johnny Appleseed of the house plant crowd, was always there to give them cute little pots to take home with them at the end of a visit. And I, like some mentally unhinged serial killer who pleads via anonymous letters to newspapers to “Stop me before I kill again,” would beg my mother not to send any more innocent plants to their doom.

Just as kids will never, despite promises to the contrary, care for the pets they acquire, neither will they bother with the plants. They will place them on a living room table, studiously overwater them for three or four days, and then abandon them to mom who holds a black thumb in horticulture.

I don’t deliberately neglect them, nor do I kill them quickly. If I did, I probably wouldn’t feel so guilty about it. What happens is that the poor things languish for months, sometimes years, gradually weakening, becoming pot-bound, overfed or dehydrated by turn, and visibly depressed before going to that big greenhouse in the sky, leaving me filled with remorse. It wouldn’t surprise me if someone from the SPCP (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Plants) showed up at my door, slapping me with a citation and holding me up as a warning to others that plant abuse will no longer be tolerated in this country.

This was the pattern of life in the Powers household for years, until the girls (the worst offenders) went away to college, Barbara first, followed two years later by Kathy, taking all of their plants with them to grace dorm rooms in Fitchburg, Mass. I was so happy at this turn of events that I lost my head and bought Kathy a big, green, aggressively healthy hanging plant to fill a bare spot near her ceiling. I thought it could serve as a role model to the other stunted specimens. Sort of a botanical “Dare To Be Great” statement to show them my heart was in the right place and I hoped there were no hard feelings. I could afford to be magnanimous. The weight of the world had been lifted from my shoulders. The plants were no longer my concern.

The bubble burst when Barbara graduated and moved back home with more plants than she had left with, followed by Kathy who moved to Hawaii and got married, leaving all her plants to be adopted by her older sister and leaving me itching to take a machete to them all.

The 10-foot bow window in the living room is the only place in the house with a sill wide enough to accommodate a pot or a planter. It became a jungle. Every plant in creation was crammed in there, jockeying for position. You couldn’t tell where one picked up and the other left off. Growth was rampant. But when when I could no longer vacuum the floor without sucking up vines I lost my patience, my sense of humor, and my self-control, all in one fell swoop. I grabbed my kitchen scissors and starting at one side of the window, began snipping six inches below the windowsill, right clean across to the other side. When I finished it looked like the window was wearing full bangs.

The couch sits directly in front of the window and Barbara would have never even noticed the trim job had it not been for the four pounds of greens that filled the kitchen waste basket. She wasn’t pleased. Hysterical is what she was, but I never saw another vine trailing onto the floor.

Barbara and her plants moved to New York last summer. The only thing on the windowsill now is a little dust. After 25 years of nurturing kids and other people’s plants, I don’t want anything around that can’t care for itself. All I have here now is a small potted yard plant that Barbara brought me from New York and Tinkerbelle, the cat. As soon as the weather warms up I will take the little bush out and plant it in the yard. Then the only thing left will be the cat. She’s 13 years old. She’s next.

Rhea Bouchard Powers is a writer from Cumberland.