The first week of the school holidays the little children went to their fathers leaving myself, J, B and S at home. J’s boyfriend came down to spend a couple of days which was interesting because J had work leaving us at home with M for hours each day. It was election week and as J and M had recently turned 18 this was their first chance to vote and so M would come to me periodically throughout the day and ask questions for Saturday about how to vote and where to find the candidates for his electoral. It was really cool to see how much thought both he and J were putting into their choices and it’s really cool to see this new generation excited about having a voice. It makes me think that maybe the world isn’t so bad, because as long as people are thinking their minds aren’t closed off and that means they’re open to making the world a better place. I got a real kick out of that, guiding these young people to make sure they’re vote counted and telling them what a privilege it is to be able to be heard. It felt like the most adult thing I’ve ever done.
On the second day M came to me to talk about plants for his cats. He was trying to order some from an online nursery but couldn’t get the PayPal to work. I told him I was sure the local nursery would have cat grass and we could make a trip out to get some, no sense in paying for postage. So the second day while J was at work, M, S, B and myself all went to the nursery to buy plants. I have a black thumb, I’ve killed the most unkillable of plants – Rosemary who everyone says you can’t kill, even Aloe Vera once, a plant that basically thrives on neglect. I love plants but over the years I came to realise the kindest thing I could do for them was not have anything to do with them. Still, I thought maybe this time would be different so I bought an African Violet and some Lemon Balm.
Lemon Balm was one of the few things I had ever managed to successfully grow when I owned a house. Done properly it will run rampant over a garden bed like mint, a plant it bears a striking resemblance to, but when you crush the leaf of the Lemon Balm in your hand a rush of citrusy smell will be released into the air. It makes beautiful tea. And I feel an affinity to Lemon Balm because we share the same name.
I use to collect African Violets when I was small, my father would care for them in the shade house where he kept his cycads and palms…hundreds of these plants that sat in rows and rows in the shade house and spilled out into the backyard. Some of them sat in their pots so long that their roots would burst from their pots seeking the soil underneath and burrow down into the earth until moving them was an exercise in extraction. I didn’t really understand his collection of these plants, how he always seemed to want more of them and the hours he would spend repotting or watering. On the odd occasions I was pressed into service to water them for him I was quite resentful of how MANY there were. A veritable army of plants.
I had been thinking of heading to the nursery for awhile, maybe buying plants and keeping something alive and growing would be good and help with the ‘making a home’ thing. Plus, I had been trying to leave the house most days for practise so I didn’t really mind taking M to buy some plants for his cats. It seemed like a good idea.
We came home and I repotted them into plain terracotta pots, enjoying the feeling of my hands in the soil, the care of these alive things. And since then I can’t stop thinking about plants. I wish I could fill my house top to bottom, sit them out on the gravel down the side of the house. I close my eyes and I see green. I wonder if I am more like my father than I realised.