… on a labor of fear (and a little love)

You guys, my plant is in labor.

No, seriously… look!

I am a nervous mess of a plant care-taker right now.

This is how it all started:

1.  If you have read any of the posts-slash-essays in this space, over time, you will know I am terrible… as in terrible… at keeping houseplants alive. This has been a source of frustration, guilt, grief, and shame. These mental gymnastics have been, at times, tragic in their frequency, due to a stubborn certainty on my part that I can ‘do it better next time’, and/or peer pressure from well-meaning humans who are also sure I can do it better next time, if I just follow their advice.

 2.  My friend. Wait. My “friend” Alex showed up, on my birthday, with the above plant. Okay, two things. Alex is indeed still my friend. Also, she did not show up with a plant. She showed up with a glass vase, filled with a bunch of dirt that had a strange looking ball smooshed on top of said dirt. The ball had a teeny, tiny bit of green painted on top of one side of it.

I was blown away that she’d come over with a gift for me (that is so Alex-y, which you would know if you knew her too)… anyway I was so excited that she thought of me that my terror, upon receiving something I would surely kill, bubbled up only high enough for me to shakily ask what it needed to live.

3.  Alex said, “Just sprinkle water around the edges of the bulb once a week or so.”

It was only after she left (and after I hugged her with joy at the fact that she’d taken the time to drive over to give me a present) that I turned to the ‘bulb’ and thought, “Oh. Oh no.”

I went to the bulb.

It was huge.

I got closer, examined it from a few angles.

The dang thing took up so much freaking room in this enormous glass container that my brain dubbed it, ‘Baby Huey’.

I sighed, gazed down at him, and finally said, “It’s you and me kid Baby Huey.”

Then I dashed to my computer and Googled (well, Duck Duck Go’d) ‘keeping amaryllis alive’.

You would be astounded at how many videos there are for amaryllises (Amaryllis? Amaryllisi?). Anyway, there are a LOT.

The experts in these videos went on and on about how you should have this type of container, and plant your ‘bulb’ only so deep in the dirt, and make sure you have good drainage, and water it a bit (but not too much!) and, at some point, your plant will shoot up and then flowers would be there and then, when the flowers fade, you cut down the beautiful foliage and get them ready for next year by…

Oh yeah.

The ONE saving grace, when I realized I was now the unwitting caretaker of an Amaryllis, was that it would die of natural causes after it flowered. Suddenly, YouTube is telling me I could keep the dang thing alive for freaking ever.

Which means…

If I toss my amaryllis into the woods once it stops blooming, that’s me… committing murder.

Oh I am not kidding.

Because, apparently, I’m supposed to wait until the plant fakes its own death, then cut off all its appendages (barbaric) and continue to water it throughout the summer, which is when it likes to go outside for fresh air and sun. Any new appendages that grow will eventually turn yellow and basically rot (ew). Then I’m supposed to chop those off too (this should happen in the fall). Then I can give my appendage-less bulb a bath and put it in a cool place for a while. One person suggested putting it into the crisper of my refrigerator, which totally weirds me out because I might mistake it for a turnip and ruin a perfectly good batch of roasted fall root vegetables.

Anyway, after keeping the bulb for about two months on the edge of hypothermia, I should then get out my container, fill it with dirt, and smoosh the bulb back into it, thus starting the cycle all over again.

Are you kidding me?

This is not just a houseplant.

This is a child!

How long does this thing live?

Can I at least shuffle it off to college after 18 years?

I have already done the kid thing.

I know parenting never ends!

4.  I began sprinkling a little water around Baby Huey once a week.  Also, in a fit of over-achieve-ed-ness, I turned his container 45 degrees each morning when I talked to him, which was really just me saying things like, “Good boy” and “Please don’t die.”

5. Baby Huey began to grow!

First the little green thing that was painted onto him, started pushing through and soon other little green things were pushing through. And then swollen green things, that looked like sea serpents, showed up.  It was all very exciting.

Then… the day before yesterday… one serpent head had a crack in it. And yesterday it started making bulges and some pink stuff glurbed out of it (which is the photo above).

I wrote to Alex, with much excitement, “… MY PLANT IS IN LABOR!”

And then yesterday…

And then today… oh my gosh!!!


I know.

What’s the big deal? There are millions and billions of Amaryllis bulbs that make their way into flower each year.

But here’s the thing.

Taking care of this nascent plant has reminded me of how cool it is that we are so present when something is brand new, not so much to the whole world… but to us. ‘New’ can be exciting and amazing and wHeird and awkward and anxiety-y all at the same time. Sometimes, the smallest ‘new’ has this way of grabbing ‘hold and seducing our attention in ways so unexpected… a little surprise party for the soul.

It has reminded me, once again, that every moment I get to spend on this planet is brand new, every one capable of drawing me into its wonder.

I am almost inspired to try to keep my strange and massive bulb going, post this bloom period and into next year.

Sure, partially because pre-meditated murder doesn’t sit well with me (as opposed to the accidental murder plantslaughter that has occurred countless times in the past). But also for the comedy gold that will certainly rain down when one of my kids opens veggie drawer, and screams in horror at the giant, badly-bathed ball of ‘what’, that looks like it’s rotting in the corner.

And I get to calmly say…

“Oh that? No worries. That’s just Baby Huey.”

I have absolutely zero doubt that kid will be texting the others about Mom losing her grasp on reality (again) before he or she even closes the fridge.

Might just be worth it.

Thanks for readin’.

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