Monday, September 01, 2008

The Death of an Herb

The relatives were over Sunday for an indoor picnic, and for the most part it went fabulously. The food was excellent, the house was neat (thanks to the husband), and the children were well-behaved.

Enough of the Garrison Keillor intro - I want to tell about my moment of domestic failure. Yesterday it was about dead plants. Other times these moments include anything that would elicit a hidden inner groan of parental failure from my mother, were she to know of them...including, but not limited to:

*Burning frozen pizza (think about it...for 20 minutes, even to feed them this, you cannot pay attention?)
*Stapling a hem with a stapler, and never ever planning to actually sew it.
*Letting weeds overrun the landscaped front of the house, to the point that you must avert your eyes upon driving up the driveway. (I did don gloves and walk out bravely one morning to heave unsuccessfully on a huge, tree-like weed, and when it did not budge, I peeled the gloves off and walked back inside the house, without even a backward glance.)
*Raising my children to expect that the trip to school each morning or for a practice is always always a hair-raising thrill ride of suspense and danger. For one reason or another, but mostly because we are late.

But yesterday it was dead plants.

I was in the middle of presiding over the lunch preparations, playing the role of a Daughter-In-Law Who Has It Together with surprising panache, when I noticed the wilting basil on the counter. Actually, a few living pots of basil, several gasping-for-breath varieties, and 3 pots of Completely Dead ones. The thought flashed through my mind that I could say I was 'drying' them,

You know how you clean like crazy for company, but later during the visit you notice some glaring thing that has been such a fixture in the landscape of your home that you have just completely missed it?

That was the basil - several pots in varying stages of obvious decay, lining the counter.

In a weird moment of flailing out to continue the illusion that I was in complete control, and with a flickering of remembrance concerning my in-laws legendary dominance over all green living things ever to sprout in and around their own home, I casually grasped three pots and set them on the windowsill. While chatting, I thought I might water some of them, hoping that during the next hour or so they might perk up a little bit and save me some embarassment...

So I chatted and poured, exuding confidence, as if I did this every day. Upon turning my back, the husband yelled out and dashed towards the windowsill, which had become a veritable waterfall of drainage from the pots, leaking out of their bottoms because I had forgotten to place a dish underneath them. I seriously almost set down my little pitcher of water to walk outside, down the walkway, and up the road, never to return (or at least until the guests were gone). I couldn't though. I had to grimly stand in front of everyone and sop up all of the water that had pooled onto the ground.

Nobody said anything and that made it even worse. I felt like the biggest dolt - here was perfect evidence that I had no idea how to care for a plant and had probably never attempted to water one before. It's hard to explain how something like this can be a big deal, but small comments here and there, the "flower graveyard" in front of the house with pots full of the skeletal remains of my optimistic horticulture in May, heavy silence as I mop up the water from three neglected plants....

Stuff like that just can level me -- it's so weird. So what if I'm bad at plant-care? So what? Why does it matter?

Oh well.
Add it to the list.



Molly said...

Heather, I hate to admit it, but you know that basil you gave me at the wedding shower? Well it died like a week later. I don't know why, I watered it and everything! We must be related :)

Joann said...

That is so funny! And, I, like you and Molly, killed my basil that you gave me. I kept it going all summer, tho, and just last week it totally crumpled up and died.

cjs said...

I'm laughing.

I can picture it. the whole thing. because I've done it all.

in fact, just this week, stapled the hem of my pants at work. "won't people see the metal," my coworker said...

I understand. more than you know.

Heidi Lee said...

Awww, Heather!!! I am so sorry you felt so bad. But do NOT!! I can't keep any sort of plant alive either! Seriously, do you know who has the green thumb in the family? Not me! Chris waters, trims, weeds...I just roll my eyes at plants that need to be watered. I had a neighbor ask me to water her plants while they were away, and I was scared to death!
My favorite part of this story was you trying to pull a giant weed and couldn't, and never looked back as you left. I could totally picture you!! Love you!

Lisa Y. said...

I'm a basil killer too! I set it in a sunny window when I got home from Molly's shower and then never looked at it again until it was deader than a doornail. I had high hope to use all that fresh basil, oh well. You, my dear cousin, are not alone.

Diane said...

Wow - listen to everyone...apparently basil is a LOT more difficult to grow than Martha Stewert ever lets on.

You realize I was there with you. I mean, the moment the water started rushing out of your pots was the same moment the water was rushing out of the shower at my in-laws house and I was outside saving frogs instead of watching the kids in the shower. And then my mil came in and found them all alone, water all of the floor....

Well, you get the idea.

Its just not your thing...walk away and proudly say "well, I just can't grow plants!" and be done with it! I love being old enough to say "I just can't do that" and be comfortable with it.

Own it.