In the summer of 1980 (early June-ish) I came home from school one day and as most teenagers do, paid absolutely no attention to my immediate surroundings other than a quest for food and a television set. My Grandmother lived with us at the time. Come supper time, it finally occurred to me that my Mother was not home from work yet. As a career woman, Mom was fairly predictable in her time table and for her to NOT be home at the usual time seemed odd…So I asked Grandma “Where’s Mom”.
My Grandma had a unique and somewhat condescending way about her. One of those truly lasting personality quirks that irritates the hell out of you at the moment, but become funnier over time. She looked at me like I was completely stupid and should have known this….she replied “Hawaii”. She then carried on canning cherries, or whatever she was doing in the kitchen at the time.
My Mom’s driving need to travel would morph into what was called the “annual Thelma and Louise”. Once a year off she’d go. Just like that.
Upon returning home she proudly distributed the usual suitcase full of indigenous trinkets (puka shell necklaces, tubes filled with Hawaiian sand) and tales of far off exotic places to a pair of teens (my younger sister and I) still pissed off over not having been invited.
As the story goes, she had been wandering along the sidewalks in the International Market in Honolulu http://www.internationalmarketplacewaikiki.com/
I’ve never been to Hawaii – but apparently this market is a MUST see…in any case…
Mom said that she’s heard something go “tick, bounce, tick” across the sidewalk at her feet. She looked down and saw what she thought was a nifty looking rock. She picked it up, popped it in her purse, and carried on with her shopping expedition.
Keep in mind, this all took place in the days PRIOR to hardcore airport security – having one’s purse searched prior to boarding the plane was very unusual…
Any female knows that the “black hole” that is your purse tends to reveal all sorts of wonderful treasures when you finally switch bags or decide to clean it out. So, needless to say – it was quite sometime before the contraband “rock” was re-discovered.
My Mom was showing off her newly found treasure and my Grandma looks at her with “that look” and says No. It’s a seed. My Mom being the strong independent type insisted that it was a rock. No, it’s a seed. No, it’s a rock. This went on until my Grandmother produced a small pot with some potting soil in it and challenged Mom to prove her wrong. Mom, not being much of a gardener, NEVER expected to lose this particular bet.
Sure enough – poink! A little sprout emerged. It would seem Grandma was right. The little pot sat in the dining room window until we sold that house and moved to Vernon. I went off and did my thing (me and my dog, off to Calgary we did go). My sister grew up and moved out. My Grandmother aged and my Mom looked after her as long as she could.
Time goes by, and children marry, produce grandkids (or in my sister’s case…travel the world – another story entirely), file for divorce, shuttle from city to city. All the while, the little sprout grew.
When my Mom finally decided to slow down a bit and move into a large adult-only apartment complex my sister and I helped her settle in. Sure enough – all these years and many travels later – Mom’s plant was still there. We had NO CLUE what sort of plant it was – it was simply there. Through 20 or so years of moves, and condos, and NorthSouthEastWest facing windows the funny plant with the long green leaves sat quietly in it’s pot and just grew.
One long, shiny green leaf would emerge. One of the bottom leaves would die back, dry up and be cut off. It had always been a bit of a family joke that Mom wasn’t much of a gardener, therefore, this plant with it’s strange leaves must be magical in some way for Mom to NOT kill it.
In the fall of 2008, I received the phone call that every child dreads. Mom’s sick. My sister, Bonnie, had traveled from her home in Vancouver to Mom’s place in Vernon for a visit only to find that Mom hadn’t been feeling well. Bonnie decided to stay for a bit and help out until Mom got back on her feet.
On October 17th, 2008 Marian E. Lalonde (Bette, to her friends and colleagues) left this world. Our small family was now short it’s globe-trotting Captain.
Through all of the breaking hearts, details, and paperwork that accompanies a life changing event like the loss of a parent, the plant stood silently in it’s little dining room window.
We sorted, and cried, and sold and cried, and packed and cried. Friends came to help pack. Others came to offer their sympathies and take away a small treasure that had once belonged to an amazing woman.
On December 1st, 2008, my sister and I closed the door to our Mother’s life one last time.
Since I happen to be a bit of a gardening junkie, it was agreed that “the plant” would come home with me. The silly, leafy plant held more meaning than pretty much anything else that had belonged to my Mom. The strange plant had now been dubbed ROCKY, as a tribute to his controversial beginnings.
Rocky accompanied me back to Alberta, and subsequently followed my family to Saskatchewan in the summer of 2009. All the while, patiently waiting for us to settle into our life on the farm. Which, incidentally, STILL has not happened – more coming on THAT subject later.
Rocky was set on a plant stand in the living room window to continue his silent vigil. Roundabout Christmas of 2012, Rocky’s leaves were starting to show some sort of problem. He was lookin’ sick!! I started to panic. Since I had NO IDEA what sort of plant Rocky was, I started to do some research. Since all I really knew about Rocky was that he had been smuggled from Hawaii in 1980, I felt that Hawaii would be a good place to start looking.
A bit of digging brought me to the National Tropical Botanical Gardens in Kalahea, Hawaii. http://ntbg.org/index.php
So I fired off an e-mail to them in hopes that they could help me a) identify Rocky and b) figure out what was wrong with him.
To be continued…