Green Thumbs in The Garden

As the fourth anniversary of my mama’s passing approaches, I am filled with so many emotions, memories, thoughts and the relentless longing I now accept that I will always feel. I can post a trillion blogs about the very same sentiment and I will feel the exact same way on the trillionth that I felt on the first – and that is that I fucking miss her, I always will, I want her back and none of the above will ever be okay.

But that’s not what I wish to focus on as August 30th looms. I want to focus on a large piece of the beauty that was my mother and how she still exists for me, how as the late, great American poet, E.E. Cummings so elegantly wrote, “I carry (her) heart / I carry it in my heart.” *

My mama loved gardening – plants, vegetables, wildflowers, you name it – she had a green thumb to rival the greenest of thumbs. This morning, as I walked through my apartment watering my succulents, my rooting projects and my hanging devil’s ivy, I was filled with wonderful memories and the thought that my mama would be so proud of me.

When my mama was alive, I was hardly as enthusiastic as she probably would have liked for me to be when it came to receiving what she deemed, “the gardening tour” or just speaking garden speak in general. Perhaps it wasn’t so much a lack but that my enthusiasm just paled in comparison to my mother’s deep passion for plant life, for ending her days with the Earth lodged underneath her long fingernails. Upon arrival at my former home in Kansas City for a summer visit, she would be ever so anxious to show me the latest annual she planted surrounding the deck or the abundant growth of the wisteria I gifted her for her birthday when I was only eight.

A visit to nearby Family Tree Nursery was always in order and always fun. We would spend an hour or two perusing the green houses, smelling the heavenly scents of pretty flowers, shooing insects and traipsing through my mother’s nirvana. Often, we would leave empty handed as it was only an inspiration trip or simply, but profoundly a mother daughter bonding experience.

Mama posing in front of the bougainvillea, Los Angeles, 2010
Mama posing in front of the bougainvillea, Los Angeles, 2010

Her visits to Los Angeles would ignite that green spark in my mother’s thumb upon her realization that seasons don’t truly exist in southern California. Flowers that she could never imagine blooming in March in the Midwest were plentiful throughout “winter” here. She especially took a liking to the rich, colorful bougainvillea abound throughout the city, on every corner, every trellis and peaking over every fenced yard. During one of her visits in April of 2009, I took her to The Getty Museum’s spectacularly landscaped gardens – truly a work of art. This masterpiece oasis easily became one of her favorite places in Los Angeles.

Standing in front of the gardens at The Getty Museum, Los Angeles, 2009
Standing in front of the gardens at The Getty Museum, Los Angeles, 2009

Green thumbs are unfortunately not genetic so I do my best but I have found that the older I get, the more enthusiastic I have become. People often ask, “How did you know that” after I identify a specific flower on one of my hikes or I see a particular, unique tree in someone’s front yard. And the answer is inevitably, “my mama.”

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Mama doing what mama loves – gardening in front of her home in Shawnee, Kansas, 2009

* E.E. Cummings actually wrote, “I carry your heart / I carry it in my heart”  Words were parenthesized/altered for purposes of this blog.

Cancer and My Psyche

When I answered the telephone call before 9am and my veterinarian identified herself, I’m pretty sure I stopped breathing as I waited for her to say the words, “I am sorry to inform you that Bambino’s blood work is showing that he has cancer.”

Instead, she informed me that Bambino’s blood work came back completely normal! My kitty does not have cancer! He must only have his right canine tooth extracted by a specialist as soon as possible. This was an enormous relief! All I could think after that telephone call was, “That’s my boy!” He’s so strong and so resilient and my single, steadfast constant comfort for the past ten years of my life. He has been with me through every single up and down since the summer of 2005 and I love him as I would love my human son.

My baby, Bambino, and I post vet visit.
My baby, Bambino, and I post vet visit.

Amongst my best attempts not to sound melodramatic, we have had quite the cancer scare in my household over the past few months. First, it was I and most recently, it was my oldest cat, Bambino. It’s difficult not to jump to the worst conclusions when I am feeling abnormal lumps in my right breast near my armpit and when the veterinarian states that she is fearful that the abscess in my baby’s tooth might not be dental related at all but an oral tumor.

Thankfully, I am happy to report that the palpable concerns in my self-examination were ruled in a mammogram and an ultrasound as swollen lymph nodes due, most likely, to my choice in deodorant. This is yet to be proven as the cause given that I have yet to find an aluminum-free, paraben-free, all natural deodorant I actually like. Tom’s sucks! The first sign of perspiration and I smell like a pubescent boy with a thyroid problem after gym class. And that’s my public service announcement for the evening. Nothing beats the freesia scented Lady Speed Stick I’ve used for probably fifteen years now. However, a new deodorant I must use. Any recommendations are welcomed and graciously appreciated.

Needless to say, the anxiety levels have been through the roof. The fact of the matter is that cancer is sort of a part of my psyche and even though I may be aware of this, there will never be a means for mental and/or emotional preparation no matter how hard I may try.

Is That a Wrap?

People come and go from our lives to create what feels, at best, like a handful or two of completely separate lives lived – almost reincarnation like. Oftentimes, people come and go because people grow apart, they choose different paths that lead their lives further and further away from what once was. There’s a mutual understanding of why you are no longer characters in one another’s next act, or reincarnation, if you will.

And sometimes, people simply begin living their life apart from yours so that one day, you wake up and you don’t even think about that person for twenty-four hours and then the next day, forty-eight hours and the next, seventy-two and so forth. Until one day, when you’re looking back and unpacking some baggage, per se, you realize, there is no mutual understanding, no explanation, no sense and perhaps, most difficult of all, no closure.

So, how do we say, “That’s a wrap” and put the final cut on what feels like a past life? How do we insert a resolution after an incomplete falling action? Can these feats even be accomplished given that the desire to reach a denouement has the possibility of being mutually exclusive? Is a rewrite attainable when only half of the parties involved may have such desire? Or do these unfinished acts simply go to the vault never to be reopened?

Alternate Realities

“If you get in that taxi, I swear to you, we are over!” I harshly spat with emphasis on the word, “over.”

The shouting and hushed cries echoed off the Alphabet City brick and mortars with a spine-tingling intensity as I slammed the taxi door with what physical strength I had left in me.

He hesitated as the cruel words continued to be exchanged and he opened the door again. The taxi driver became visibly impatient and David finally closed the door without entering. He took my threat seriously, I thought to myself. In hindsight, I’m not certain if I meant it or if I was simply threatening but I’ll never know. I probably didn’t mean it.

Cockroaches – the large, disgusting ones that are the size of an average human beings’ thumb, crawled around my sandaled feet. Typically, this would be of prioritized concern but my relationship was on the line, there was no grey area and it was do or die. The person I pictured myself spending the rest of my life with, albeit a mediocre life at best was swiftly fading.

The shouting continued as intoxicated passers-by gawked and shop owners exited their stores to figure out what all the commotion was about. It’s fascinating when mutual passion, alcohol and a serious relationship are combined, all societal proprieties fly out the window per se. That is to say, I didn’t give a fuck who heard me tell David that he was being completely ridiculous, that the Asian guy at the bar was flirting with my Asian friend and not I – besides Asian guys were rarely ever attracted to me.

He was upset that a guy had occupied his seat while he went to retrieve beverages and I was in shock at the strength of his reaction. I had actually done the appropriate thing and told the gentleman that he would have to move as soon as my boyfriend returned. Being the jealous and severely insecure person David was, however, this major detail didn’t seem to matter, especially to a drunk David. And being the rather insecure, actions speak louder than words, often jump to conclusions kind of woman that I was, his trying to leave me in the middle of alphabet city at 2:30 in the morning spoke volumes and those volumes couldn’t be anything but that he didn’t give a shit about what happened to me.

To this day, I often wonder to myself what would have happened if I had let him get into that taxi, let him leave? I imagine I meant the words “we are over” as he rode off in a yellow cab and I stood under fluorescent streetlights in gold, patent sandals, Manhattan cockroaches crawling all around. What if?