{ Saturday, October 30, 2004 }

Arthur the Fern

Right now I ought to be cleaning house, very very quietly as the cat and the boy are both still sleeping. The house needs cleaned... Arthur (that's my asparagus fern)... I just went looking for a link to when I told y'all about Arthur and it seems I haven't ever done that. I don't believe it!

My parents have the same houseplants. She got cuttings of these, he got cuttings of those, they have precisely the same houseplants, and they have for the twenty some years since they got divorced. It's funny the things my parents have in common besides two kids... They have the same taste in gardening, they both like dogs, and neither of them believes in processed foods. Well, and, of course, they're both Democrats. That might be the whole list...

Anyway, I used to have cuttings of the many of those plants. Then I moved to Arizona and left my plants with Mom for safekeeping. She was supposed to bring them with my furniture. She didn't.

Apparently, these plants that my parents have been raising duplicates of, from "plant" to "bush" to "tree", for longer than I have been alive were nearly dead things that my father's younger sister brought home from the nursery where she worked.

That's where the other houseplants came from, not that I have any of them in my posession at this time. At this time, I have a prickly pear cactus Mom and her husband bought me while they were here after they realized that my other plants didn't make it. I also have another cactus that I brought home from work.

And on this trip back, I brought along two plants. One is a spider plant. I brought it home from Girl Scouts when I was probably eight years old. I believe it was a Mother's Day present. The damned thing flourished; I remember Mom telling me she was trying to kill it a little on more than one occasion, Mom's plants tend to get out of control. She used to try to get them to die back a little. Now she just chops them up and gives them to anyone who will take some...

So, Mom had a planter with three shoots in it. She announced that she had been "keeping" my spider plant for me all these years, and I now could take two shoots home with me. She'd keep the other one. I put them on the patio so they'd get better light and I'm mostly just hoping that they don't die. They aren't looking too good right now. I don't think travelling in my carry-on really agreed with them, and maybe living in a coffee cup doesn't either.

I have lofty aspirations of buying some potting soil, making the boy carry it upstairs for me, and then repotting them into the container with the dead ivy. (My capacity for killing ivy is really just amazing. I don't know why I keep trying.) Hopefully that will help them.

Now we're almost caught up on my houseplants, and then I'll have a nice entry to link back to about my houseplants when I want to talk about them...

Except, Arthur.

As legend goes, Arthur came home from high school with my mother's youngest brother. He had been in the biology lab, and he was dead. My great grandmother ended up with him. She put him in the basement and ignored him; this brought him back to life, and then she sent him to Grandma's house to live. Grandma put him in the piano room, and neglected him deeply for about the next twenty years.

Sometimes, her grandchildren would get a little enthusiastic in their destruction of her Boston ferns and move on to Arthur. Look, I was very little and I had no idea how hard it is to make a Boston fern live. I just knew that ripping all the leaves off a frond was a really good time. It's a testament to my grandmother's green thumb that the damned things never actually completely just gave up and died, since everytime they started to thrive, her grandchildren would play at killing them.

He spent several long periods in the basement window. (That's where plants go to regenerate, you know. You put them in a window in the basement and then mostly ignore them. They probably died because you were fussing at them too much. They need a little quiet rest now and then.)

Anyway, Arthur was near death by the time Grandma handed him over to Mom. So, my mother took him, put him in the basement and ignored him. He came back to life. Then something happened, and she sprayed the poor fern with Raid. This made the plant die. There were a few others that also died in the spraying.

Take a guess what happened next. Arthur went and sat in a basement window for a long time. He didn't sprout back to life. Mom moved him to the patio (the next step of accepting that maybe the plant is dead. First it sits mostly ignored in a basement window. Then it spends a month or two outside in an inconspicuous place. If it's still not alive, it goes into the compost heap. You are not supposed to look so shocked when the plant springs back to life out of the compost heap and gets dug up and replanted.)

The damned plant popped back to life. Mom took it to work. My freshman year of college, her assistant gave me this poor, pitiful, rootbound, half dead plant. "Your mother is trying to kill this fern. Take it to your dorm room."

Instead, the plant lived on the floorboard of my car for a good long while. Like, until it was down below freezing outside. I finally took it into my dorm room.

It was shortly after my first two roommates moved out. I was very lonely and sixteen years old. So, I made the plant two eyes and a mouth, stuck them on there with paperclips and named it Arthur.

My next roommate, The Codon, one of my very most favorite people in the world, later reported that she was a little concerned about the prospect of living with me, right up until she saw that I'd given my plant a face. I referred to him as my "pet"...

He was all rootbound, so we repotted him. Into the salad bowl. We set to work making the poor plant grow. It was very slow going. Later we moved him into an actual pot. A really, really large one. I wrote his name on it in crayon and everything.

Arthur lived with me in the dorms. He flourished in the yard of Cabin Six at Camp all summer. (Put the plant outside. Ignore it. Watch it grow.) He loved that one winter when we lived with the keeper of the campus greenhouse and he got some fertilizer and attention from someone who actually knew something about plants. We left college and Camp.

He's only had one other major event in his life... Two summers ago, he was on the rail of our porch and the cat accidentally knocked him off. The pot broke. It turned out he was root bound again and I wouldn't have known that if that hadn't happened...

Now he lives in a giant plastic pot. It's actually too heavy for me to move easily. When we painted the upstairs at my last house, he ended up in the bathtub. After we finished, I was completely covered in paint. I almost had to just shower with the fern, but I tracked down a nice boy to move him for me.

He spent the summer at Mom's and is now bigger and greener than he's ever been before. He went for a ride in the cargo hold of an airplane and now he lives in Arizona. I have hope that he'll be fine here since there is asparagus fern in the landscaping outside. It's actually so dense that they cut it to look like tiny little bushes...

When he was removed from his box, an awfully lot of dirt and fern bits ended up on my living room floor. It's sitting there just screaming at me that I need to clean my damned house.

All of that, and can you believe they're both still sleeping?? The cat woke up relocated to laying half on me somewhere in there... I might have to wake that boy up soon, I have a long list of things I need to go buy so he can carry them into my apartment for me before I run off to do some GOTV doorknocking. (If you're new here, I have a bad back, and I am small and frail. I really can't carry much.)

I ended up taking the only suggestion that I got. I wore the schoolgirl clothes to work yesterday. Pigtails on the top of my head, tacky cheap jewelry, plaid skirt, tights, blouse, navy cardigan, the whole bit. I heard from more than a couple people that I did, in fact, look like I was twelve.

About One Year Ago: nothing. What can I tell you to go read instead? Pratt. Last night we had more fun than anyone should talking on the phone and ridiculing various webpages together.

About Two Years Ago: Waste came to visit and it prompted me to wear eyeliner.

posted by mary ann 8:50 AM