So far this week, I've clocked in 7 hours with my mom, the octogenarian. Yesterday, I went over to her place to help her pot some of the plants that we picked up for her in Waco last weekend.
When one is moving one's mother from her home of 30+ years, one will make wild promises to ensure the positive attitude of said soon-to-be-displaced mother. "Yes! You can take 5 sets of china!" "Of course, I'll pack up all of your holiday decor!" "I think that you should take as many plants from your yard as your little heart desires!" The sad and guilty feelings an adult child feels when it comes to ripping an aged parent from his or her homestead create a fertile environment in which false promises tend to spring up like pesky weeds.
Whoa, whoa, whoa. Hold it right there. Surely I di-ant throw that promise out there! The one about moving all those plants. I just had to go and open my big, fat mouth.
Where was I...oh, yes...potting plants at Mom's. First I must explain that while I was slaving away packing up her stuff in Waco, Little Mother was sitting on the couch talking to her landscaper on the phone. "David, what do you think will grow in Lubbock?...Is that right!?...Is it in the same gardening zone as Waco?...Oh, I see....Blue Plumbago [plum BAY go]?...Turk's Cap?...What about my climbing rose?...Oh, goody!!!...AND, my Encore Azaleas?!...Oh, boy!!" David promised that he would dig up all the plants from her yard in Waco that she could grow in Lubbock and store them in his greenhouse until she was all settled in at her new apartment at Raider Ranch. Thanks, David. Thanks a lot.
Last Friday, we closed on her house in Waco. As we headed home on Sunday, the flora that sprang from the back of our Suburban made us look like the Beverly Hillbillies moving to some sort of arboretum. Six hours later, we pulled up to her little apartment porch and began to unload her "babies." You would have thought that it was Christmas in the Garden of Eden. "Oh! I'll bet that's my Blue Plumbago!" "That's got to be my Turk's Cap!!" "I see my Encore Azalea!" She was clapping her little hands together with glee. Ruh roh. Here we go. "Uh, Mom, David couldn't actually dig up scrubs because of the new homeowners and all." "But, isn't that my azalea right there?" "No, Mom, that's your New Guinea Impatiens." (To her credit I must say that the impatiens were the size of small shrubs. What with her macular degeneration and all, I could certainly understand her confusion.) "David said that he was going to send me an Encore Azalea in that pot." The woman knows each of her terra cotta pots by name. I kid you not. "No, Mom. Remember, it would have made the flowerbed look weird if one of the azaleas had been quarried out of the ground leaving a gaping hole in the hedge row." "Oh, yes. I remember." (Remember that word, "remember." It's the key to the whole two hour Potting Plants with Mimi episode.)
From there, the potting session was more like the "Who's On First" comedy routine. However, instead of laughing, I was biting the inside of my cheek and praying that the good LORD would either kill me dead with a bolt of blue sky lightening or heap patience and peace upon me like thick, gooey honey.
"Mom, before I get all busy potting these, we need to figure out where they're going on your porch. Once that dirt gets in there, the pots will be too heavy to lift." "Well, the Encore Azalea is going to need part sun/part shade." Deep breath, Carolyn. Remember your breathing exercises. "Actually, Mom, that's the New Guinea Impatiens. I'm going to go ahead and dig it out of this wonderful pot since it's almost time for a freeze." "Hmmm. I guess that would be all right." The "Hmmm" let me know that she wasn't sure that I knew the difference between the two plants. "What shall I put in this pot, Mom?" "Hmmm. I guess you can put my Blue Plumbago in there." "Which one is the Blue Plumbago?" "Hmmm. Let...me...see. Does that look like one in that little pot over there?" At this point, I trudge inside and return with her well-worn Neal Sperry gardening book opened to the Blue Plumbago page. Satisfied that we had correctly identified the plumbago auriculata, Mom slipped back inside on some sort of mission.
Once the Plumbago was nestled down in its pot, I moved on to the Turk's Cap which had been transported from Waco in one of those big black plastic containers in which large bushes are generally sold. Sure enough, I had to work really hard to get that little bugger to release the pot. When it did, the roots proved to be long and tangly. By now, I have dirt on the knees of my jeans and my hands are filthy. A piece of hair has blown across my lipstick adhering itself in such a way that camouflaged it so that I could not quite put my finger on where the tickle was coming from. My satanic irritation was beginning to mount. Potting soil was flying, and I was shoving those roots down into the pot assuring them that they would never see daylight again in my lifetime.
As I was sweeping up the piles of potting soil surrounding the Turk's Cap pot, Mom stepped back out on to the porch to have me look at a pair of pants that she had purchased at Chico's the day before during our one hour "shopping spree." "Do these look too tight across the bottom?" Brushing the hair out of my face with my forearm, I watched her turn slowly with her arms raised slightly like a model showing off a ball gown. Sure enough. A wee bit too tight. Decisions, decisions. Tell her the truth knowing that it would cost me another trip to Chico's or hope that she would only wear the pants with long jackets? "Er, uh...yes. Yes, they are a bit tight. All I can do right now is garden. I can't do garden and fashion all at one time." "OK. I just wanted to see what you thought. I'll bet that pot with the Turk's Cap is too heavy for you to move. It might need a bit more sun that it will get in that corner." "Nope. Can't move it. It will take three 250 pound men to lift this thing." "You can't sort of push it a little bit at a time?" The eye twitching from the Chico's trip the day before returns. With a cheerful pasted smile on my face I say, "Nope. No can do, Kemo Sabe." "Hmmm. OK." I quickly busied myself with scooting her Stella D'ora day lilies potted in small blue pots over to the side of the porch where they will certainly enjoy full sun to partial shade here in lovely Zone 7.
Next, I tackled the climbing rose with its flower pot sized fleur de lis topped trellis. Prickly thorns. Stubborn branches. Hair stuck to lipstick. Knees of jeans stiff with wet potting soil. Oh, happy day. Mother reappears in her old Chico's black jeans - Size .5 Short. "These must be my Extra Wide .5 Chico's jeans because I have to have a belt to keep them up." [See yesterday's blog for backstory on the Wide Chico's jeans. I'll give you a hint. Chico's jeans DON'T COME IN WIDE OR EXTRA WIDE.] I remain respectfully silent.
"That pot looks pretty! Are those my azaleas?! Everyone here LOVES my French berets! Both men and women have said that I look cute in them! I remember getting this one on sale at Dillards right before Christmas the year Jonathan graduated from high school! Everyone at Raider Ranch thinks that you're the BEST DAUGHTER IN THE WORLD! I had the rest of the chicken-and-dumplings-and-turnip-greens last night. I heated them in the microwave for 62 seconds! This Spring, I'm going to plant a hot pink hibiscus in that big green ceramic pot. Do you think that will look pretty with azaleas?"
I'm beginning to believe that the people at Raider Ranch are right. My little mother looks just downright adorable in her French berets. And, I may very well be the BEST DAUGHTER IN THE WORLD. I'd be willing to bet 3 Encore Azaleas and a Blue Plumbago on it.