I tend to kill plants. I don't do it on purpose, but they just seem to die when I'm in charge of taking care of them. The only plant that survived in my care for a significant amount of time was a shamrock that I took home from my wedding. It was an incredibly hearty plant—it would have to be to endure my "care!" I was married on St. Patrick's Day in 1990, and it seemed appropriate to have shamrocks as centerpieces on the tables. I kept one, and amazingly enough, it lived!
This little plant managed to survive the many hardships it was put though, from temperatures that were too much to bear (it was drooping miserably before I realized I was keeping it on a table right over a heat register) from temperatures that were near sub-zero (it was left near a window that I left open a crack in the winter, and the poor thing actually had frost on its leaves). I would go away on vacation and forget to get someone to water it. I would not be on vacation, and still forget to water it for weeks at a time. There were times when it was reduced to one tiny stalk. There were also times when it blossomed beautifully and seemed too large for the pot it was planted it.
Over the course of my eight year marriage, I began to think of that little plant as symbolic of our relationship. We had been through so many similar ups and downs, enduring our own heat waves and ice ages and long periods of drought. There were times when we, too, seemed barely alive, and times that were abundant when we bloomed wide open.
When the shamrock began to die, my marriage began to crumble. We had moved into a new house, and no matter what room I put it in, no matter how much or how little water I gave it, the plant continued to wither. It was sick, as if something was eating it from the inside out. The shamrock tried to adjust to its new environment, but just couldn't manage it. Neither could my marriage.
They both died a surprisingly quiet death that year. I was inordinately sad when our shamrock died. I didn't understand that loss at the time, but later that year, as my marriage slowly slipped through the cracks, I understood my sadness at the death of that particular life. It was the only plant that would ever live for me. I didn't know if there would ever be another—and at the time I didn't care. I threw up my hands, frustrated, and walked away.
Now, I'm entering into a new relationship in my life—and yes, there's another plant involved. He brought her with him into my life. Her name is Sippy, and she's a beautiful, wispy, willowy fern. I warned him fervently that I wasn't good with plants. I told him the story of my shamrock, how every other plant I'd ever touched had withered and died, and even that one had succumbed, eventually. I told him, but he just smiled and said we'd work it out. I often look at her when he's not around and wonder guiltily if I'm going to kill this one, too.
It's appropriate that this plant is one that he already had in his life, and not one that we acquired together, considering that he is taking me and my two children into his life and having to adapt to that.
All I have to adapt to is having a new plant.
Already, I've over-watered her and her leaves began to turn yellow. I've placed her in places too warm and too cold. We both conferred and finally decided on a place for her—and so far, she seems to be thriving. Until we move again!
Still, I have hope. I have hope for moving forward and not looking backward. I have hope that adjustments will be made, that in spite of whatever mistakes I'll make (and I know I will) and whatever trials will come, that we can all bloom where we have been planted. I have hope that I do have a green thumb, after all, that I just have to learn to trust myself and the people I love.
So, I am looking forward to the long and healthy life of Sippy, in spite of the inevitable ups and downs. Who knows... maybe I'm getting better with plants.
Author's Note: It has been ten years, and I'm happy to report that both my marriage and Sippy are still thriving.