Black Thumb

I don’t know how it happened, but walking towards my bedroom door, I tip my head to the right, and there it is, my plant in bloom. For many, this is an annual occurrence, the resurgence of blossoms that definitively demonstrate life’s cycles.

The typical cycle in our household begins when I impulsively and optimistically buy a cute little plant, usually something on display at Trader Joe’s, imagining it the center of attention on the island between the kitchen and living room, or perhaps on my nightstand greeting me as I start my day. During the next phase, I kill said plant either with neglect or ineptitude. After watering it for a few extra weeks just to be sure that the brittle brown leaves don’t really signify death but rather a state of – let’s say – disinterest, I finally give up and give in. The burial is an unceremonious dumping in the garbage can.

I could turn the failed dream into mulch in our communal front yard and let it participate in the parallel life cycle story, cinematically valid but a little depressing. The fact that I don’t just shows how black my thumb is. In fact, I think my thumb can now be labeled a serial killer, so many have died under its care.

To see fresh blossoms on a plant I nearly killed two weeks ago while trying to extract all the spindly brown stems weaving through the cheerfully green show-offs, only to discover how truly entwined they all were (sorry, healthy stems that I ripped from life and a hopeful future), is truly amazing. Really. This is the first plant I’ve kept alive through one whole cycle.

There was one plant I had in college, that leafy green variety bred specifically for college students because it cannot be killed. Drownings in beer, lit cigarettes scorching its soil when used as an impromptu ashtray, a complete absence of light – the plant barely flinches. Sophomore year I went home for winter break, a full four weeks, and had no one to care for my plant, so I left it on our back porch and promptly forgot about its existence. Six months later, when packing up for summer, I found the plant on its side having fallen off the porch and living in a tangle of dirt and leaves. And you know what? It looked great. Better than if I’d actually tried to care for it.

My mom tried to give me an orchid on Mothers’ Day. I just couldn’t accept it. I have killed so many orchids that I’m sure I’m on that plant’s most wanted list. I can imagine them all lined up at the post office, waiting to send goodies to loved ones and glaring at the photo of my innocently smiling face – though in their eyes, maniacally so – amongst the other FBI’s most wanted felons. It’s that bad.

While Spring arrived for others weeks ago, I mark today as my official first day, commemorated by little purple flowers. At the same time, I must say an apology to all the plant siblings that didn’t make it. I did my best.

There is a reason I have only one child. I know my limits. Most of the time.


flutter said...

Sometimes plants just have a very dramatic sense of timing

littlepurplecow said...

This sounds all too familiar to me. You are such a great writer. Really. Glad I came for a visit.

42pennies said...

Greetings from a fellow murderer.

Coincidence, my running across your blog today, as I just finished a post on the very same phenomenon. Isn't it frustrating? What is it about we of the black thumbs?

Anyhow, you might be interested in reading mine, too, so the link is below.

Now I'm off to buy more victims!

Good luck to us both.


the Provident Woman said...

I killed a huge garden this summer. Plants need water? Who knew. Oh, well, maybe next year.