She’s been hauling me from place to place for forty years, believe it or not. We met in a hardware store in 1973. I was not well, actually. Spider mites.

She was a cashier, her first job, and she took it upon herself to spruce up the houseplant section. The Retail Gods determined that I was not worth sprucing up, so she took me home as her own. She named me after the assistant manager at the store – Joey. She had a mad crush on him, even though he couldn’t have cared less about me and my fellow green folk.

Anyway, I am proud to say I was the first of many, many green folk in her life. Our relationship started her life-long love affair with my kind. At one point, she shared her house with more than one hundred of us. Today, there are maybe sixty  – but back then, it was just me.

Just Me

Just Me — Joey

The Family Tree

I would venture to say I made a real difference in her life. She was a teenager when I met her, living in a pretty unhappy home. Her father always smelled like Gallo sherry and she hated it. Sometimes there would be yelling, especially when her older brother came home from college.

She would escape to the refuge of our room after the dinner table explosions, where she would hum to herself while she spritzed me with water and wiped the dust from my stomata with bits of old flannel. Sometimes she would flip on the black light, which mellowed us both out. The hazy violet glow contained just a little bit of the red and blue rays I absorb, so it was kind of a dream state, like dawn, almost. Surrounded by posters of flowers and peace signs and George Harrison and Bob Dylan  in glowing orange, lime green, and rainbow hues, she would talk to me in that human vibration that makes your petioles tremble.

I like to think I was some comfort to her. I guess a shrink might suspect that she was bordering on codependency with me, but she needed somebody to take care of and to listen to her, and I was there. No judgment here – just glad I could serve.

She learned how to take care of me from her mother, which I could tell was nice for her because their relationship at the time wasn’t so smooth. It gave them something in common, and she would sometimes make up stuff to ask her Mom just to start a conversation.

Water Music

We’re not as close as we used to be. Back in the day, she talked to me all the time and carefully removed my yellowed leaves. She read somewhere that green folk like classical music, so she played that for me even though I actually preferred Led Zeppelin II and, of course, the drum solo on the Iron Butterfly’s In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida album. Whoosh! Talk about trembling petioles!

in a

On weekends, she fed me a delectable brew of nitrogen, phosphorous, and potash and then set me on the back porch for fresh air.

Now, though, we’ll go weeks with nothing more than an unceremonious dumping of left-over water from her bedside mug. Oh, don’t get me wrong. It’s better than the long droughts she subjects me to when she disappears for weeks at a time in the summer. She has her neighbor give water to a couple of my finicky companions – the avocado trees, the orange tree, and the oh-so particular Oxalis and her friend the button fern.

Tough Love

She knows I’m tough, though. We’ve been through a lot together – twenty roommates (give or take), some dogs and cats that left fur and dander on my leaves, a few parakeets that nibbled on me, lots of addresses. I’ve been shuffled from the bedroom to the bathroom to the sunny kitchen window. Once I spent months balanced on the seat of an abandoned exercise bike in a dark and dusty “junk room.” For several years now, I haven’t even been in soil – just rooted in water.

Still, I’m OK. She doesn’t need to worry about me. I whine, but to be honest, I don’t resent this treatment at all. I’m glad I’m no trouble to her. I know she loves me, I can feel the vibes.

I mean, seriously. WordPress suggests that she write about an icon of some sort, and out of the whole wide world, she chooses me.  She thought about elephants. She thought about Saint Francis. She thought about an old Art Deco statue in her town. But she picked me. An icon of her past. I know I’m not particularly special to look at – not like her fancy-pants orchids.



But out of 60-something green folks, I’m the only one she calls by name.

What might be an icon from your life??