At our cabin and home, I just let Mother Nature take care of the gardening. It’s better that way.
Last summer, my 8-year-old son busted into the cabin holding a white foam cup filled with dirt and a speck of a leafy plant. “Mom, this is for you!” Kyler said proudly as he handed me his tiny homemade gift. I looked closely and noticed that Kyler had scribbled on the cup in marker: “Just add water.” The gesture was sweet, but clearly Kyler didn’t know my track record for plant care. At our cabin, I’ve learned the hard way to just let Mother Nature do the gardening, and I just stay out of the way. My grandmother had a green thumb, which I did not inherit. Whenever I stepped foot inside a nursery, I’d mutter something ridiculous like, “I’m looking for those cute purple flowers that smell really good but don’t attract bees.” If the patient staff decoded my nonsensical query and sold me a plant or flower, it was nothing short of a miracle if I kept it alive for more than a week. Grandma taught me a few gardening tidbits. For instance, I know that different species of plants require various degrees of sunlight, shade and water. Also, some prefer to be watered from the bottom. Of course, I had no clue what kind of plant Kyler had gifted me. Not that it mattered. That little plant’s days were numbered now that it was in my care. I sat the cup on the kitchen windowsill where it would get some sun. But by week’s end, the leaves started to look droopy. My heart sunk. Oh no, here we go again. “Well, maybe it needs more water,” I thought, so I held it beneath the faucet. It sucked up the liquid, so I added more. My husband Eric walked into the room and asked what I was doing. “Watering Kyler’s plant,” I said. “I already watered it,” Eric said.
Whoops. Well, maybe it’ll perk up by tomorrow, I thought. The next day when I checked the windowsill, my heart sank. The tips of the leaves looked brownish and frail. I picked up the cup and bits of dried leaves crumbled off and fluttered to the floor. This wasn’t good. Over the next few days, most of the leaves shriveled up. Soon, I was caring for little more than a cupful of dirt. The humane thing would have been to release the scraggly leaf back into nature – to dump the dirt down by the lake and say a little plant prayer that perhaps next time, I would do better. But I just couldn’t bring myself to say goodbye to my favorite windowsill decoration. Because every time I looked out the window, I was reminded of my sweet boy’s thoughtful gift. Kyler saw me studying the plant and asked, “Is that thing still alive, Mom?” “Of course!” I automatically replied, like any good mommy programmed to flat-out lie when backed into a corner. “Really?” he said. “Cuz it doesn’t look like it.” My son was right. Dead as a doornail. “Truth is,” I said quietly, “Mommy’s not so great with plants. Not like your Great Grandma Grubbs. She was amazing!” “You’re amazing, too, Mom – maybe not with growing stuff,” Kyler said. “But you’re a super skier! Will you teach me how?” I looked out at the lake. It was like glass. “That I can do,” I said. I may not be able to grow a plant, but at least I could cultivate a junior waterskier. We grabbed the skis from the boathouse and raced towards the lake. Just add water. This was my kind of gardening. Christy Heitger-Ewing thinks that if everyone could experience life at a cabin, the world would be a happier place.