Jewish Journal

Death of a Houseplant

by Mihal Levy

November 11, 2009 | 1:33 pm

While roaming through the bookstore I noticed a common trend: books about people’s lives through their pet’s eyes. Being that I don’t have a pet (allergies…and goldfish are no fun, especially when they become cannibalistic), I decided that when I got home later I would write a story through the “eyes” of my houseplant, my only houseplant.

Before I left home in the morning, I placed my plant outside in the sun to rejuvenate - vitamin D therapy.  (No, I don’t know what I’m doing, but I thought this would help revive my poor plant.)  Ironically, when I reached my front door, there he was (yes, he), toppled over on the ground about half a foot from his pot, soil strewn all over.  Just when I was contemplating what my plant would say about me, there was my answer, loud and clear.  Had Mr. Plant committed suicide?  Had someone kicked him over and my poor plant could not fend for himself because of me…leaving him all alone on my front porch?  Whether suicide or homicide, it was my fault.  I felt awful.

While picking up his remains, I scooped him back into the pot and reminisced about old times.  Mr. Plant and I go way back, about seven years back, in fact.  I am shocked he has lasted this long considering…

He was a housewarming present given to me by my mother when I moved into a new place when I was single.  I don’t know what she was thinking, since I was known as the “plant killer” and couldn’t care for a plant if my life depended on it.  But, I guess she figured I needed something to keep me company and something to take care of, since pets were out of the question.  It was a nice thought at the time, until I kept shifting him around my place trying to figure out why his leaves were always yellow (jaundice?) then brown (ouch).  This went on and on until all that was left of Mr. Plant was a stem and some roots, becoming Mr. Stubby.

Mr. Stubby was thrown into a box a couple of years later when my singlehood was over and moved in with my husband and I.  My husband was open to everything I moved into his place (now our place), but Mr. Stubby stood out for him.  “Isn’t that thing dead?” he asked.  I was quick to defend him - my plant, not my husband.  “No!  Well, I don’t know, but I can’t just throw him away.”  (I have a whole other issue with death, but that makes for another blog.)  And, so began our threesome: me, my hubby and my dead plant.

I had been so busy with the move, wedding, honeymoon, and redecorating of my husband’s bachelor-pad-turned-couple’s-home that I had not paid attention to Mr. Stubby.  (What else was new?)  One day I remembered that I should probably water him and noticed he had sprouted long green branches and leaves.  (A miracle happened here!)  That was about five years ago.  (Not the last time I watered him, of course.  I’m not that bad.)

From then on it was always a question of reviving the poor thing.  And all my classes in CPR did not help.  I remember a particular instance when I realized I must say goodbye to him again and placed him outside on top of one of the trash receptacles to throw away later when my father-in-law came to visit.

He walked into my home, dead plant in hand, and said, “You can’t throw this plant away.”

“I can’t?”

Unlike myself, my father-in-law does have a green thumb - two, in fact, and has grown everything from cacti and flowers to orange groves, I’m sure.  And here I was, struggling to take care of one plant.  He placed Mr. Plant (aka, once again, Mr. Stubby) on a drip, a slow drip from the faucet, and placed him out in the sun.  I was a skeptic, but literally within days, once again, Mr. Plant proved to be immortal.

The years passed and I always shifted him around when he got a bit jaundiced and watered him every so often (sorry, Mr. Plant).  My mother even commented recently, “Is that the same plant I gave you years ago?  I can’t believe it.”  I couldn’t either.  Even my son loved watering him.  When he was a little guy learning how to walk, he would walk over to the plant and water it, sometimes even with his juicebox, but Mr. Plant didn’t seem to mind.  He flourished.

And now, this.  I am not sure there is hope this time.  I will place him outside again and wait.  I want to apologize to you, Mr. Plant, for the tough times I have put you through, but thank you for always coming around.  You have seen me when I was single, married and now in motherhood.  You have been there for me.  I hope I have been there for you.  This is not the end, it is the beginning of a new era and I thank you.

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Mihal Levy used to collect degrees as a hobby.  After receiving her B.S. and M.S. degrees, she worked as a psychotherapist and research scientist before continuing her hobby of...

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