Carol Jane Remsburg
The Friday afternoon before Mother's Day, Erin came home from school clutching a sprout of petunias potted in one of those plastic starters with the bottom wrapped up in aluminum foil. She proudly handed them to me with all her love. I panicked.
I come from a long-long line of great gardeners, but I'm not one of them. As a matter of fact, darn near anything I touch of the photosynthesis category will begin to wilt just from my gaze. Under my care, they die very quickly. Had they legs instead of roots, they'd run screaming in terror from me. It seems I've the blackest thumb in America. Sigh, now what was I going to do?
For years upon years I fell back upon my grand excuse not to have any indoor foliage just because of the cats. I learned this early on. Shortly after I married and we had two young kittens, I was gifted with a lovely spider plant in a hanging basket. Spiders are hardy plants, but my sister should have known better. Within 24-hours it began to wilt; however, before 48-hours came to pass, one of my kittens, Muffin, banked a high leap off the back of a chair and that was the end of the plant. You'll never know how much I loved that cat.
So, nearly nineteen years later, I'm faced with a smiling child, one old enough to keep watch on me and notice my daily struggles to keep this straggly little plant alive. Up on the windowsill above the kitchen sink it went. I knew the spot would provide abundant light and would be protected from my current house cats.
Every morning without fail, I checked the smidge of soil in the plastic cup. If it was dry, I added a little water. On occasion I would whisper to it in a chant when I thought no one was noticing. It was more than a whisper actually; I was begging it to stay alive.
To my unending surprise, the little flower didn't die overnight nor did it succumb over the next week or three. May slid into June and then lapsed into July. Somewhere during that time I began to forget about the little flower on the windowsill. About once a week I'd nearly drown it, tip it so the excess could drain away, plop it back in place and forget about it all over again.
The blooms kept coming. When they wilted I knew enough to pinch them off so others would grow. This stringy, awkward plant was going to live no matter what I did. Meanwhile, my daughter had long stopped noticing the little pink flowers in the kitchen window. Almost ten year-olds do that. The thing was, I couldn't.
In early August, I found I had a little extra time on my hands so I took the little flower outside and planted it beneath my kitchen window where it would be spared the worse of the weather. Taking the shovel to dig the shallow hole was a huge step for me. I knelt and dug in with both hands to make the soil proper and welcoming. I felt as though I were playing in the mud again. But once done, I felt even Mom would have been proud.
Released from its plastic jail, the roots could breathe and grow and become strong. I watched it like a hawk expecting it to expire overnight or at least some time over the next few days. It didn't. The pink of the flowers never faded. They just grew more abundant. Never more than four but kept mostly to two. I allowed nature to take her course.
It's now mid-October. We've had a few light frosts including one just last night. This morning I pinched off one wilting bloom. Two lovely blooms remain.
Even though I know they won't remain much longer, I'll keep that little petunia plant close in my heart. It is a survivor. And maybe, just maybe, next year, I'll plant my own for the first time. When I do, I'll have Erin with me. Playing in the mud and the dirt can be fun when the outcome is beauty and vibrant life.