It was my senior year of college, and I had been dating my husband for many months. Things were getting "serious". I was sure it was L-O-V-E that we were in. Shortly there after, I met my Beloved's mother. On one occasion she broke off a stem of her Christmas Cactus, stuck it in some dirt, and gave it to me.
"What IS this?" I asked.
"It's a succulent." she said, matter of factly.
"A what?" I asked, trying not to show my ignorance.
"You know...a succulent, it gets water through the air. It needs humidity. It's called a Christmas Cactus." she informed me.
"Ohhhh right." I said.
I had no stinkin' clue what the heck a succulent was. All I could think about was this stick of ugliness in a pot of dirt. I panicked, wondering how I was going to keep it alive. I was convinced that this was some sort of secret test to see if I would be a nurturing, loving, attentive spouse some day. (I think I read that in a magazine somewhere.)
I decided, immediately, to care for that plant like my life depended upon it's survival. I vaguely remembered her saying that it needed humidity, so I took the pot into my tiny apartment bathroom every day, and sat it on the toilet while I showered, so it could have it's share of water vapor. I talked lovingly to it, and gave it a name. "Spike.... Spike the Succulent. Yeah, that fits
you well." I said to the potted branch. I think it liked me. It started to grow.
Before I knew it, it started to look like a real plant, and just as Spike began to grow, my budding relationship with my Lover began to spring forth, and we got married. A year later, we had our first child. Our boy quickly grew into a toddling terror who grabbed on to anything he could find and deposited it directly into his mouth....so Spike got relocated to the top of the refrigerator. "It's safer up here for you, buddy" I said. Fast forward 9 years and two more kids, and Spike was still living up on the refrigerator.
The unfortunate thing about his new home is that he got neglected. Out of sight, out of mind. Waterings got fewer and farther between. The artificial light was troubling to him. The lack of humidity was unkind to his leaves. Frankly, he was barely surviving. It came to a crescendo one year, when he bloomed for the very first time. It was not a "pleasant" blooming to show off his splendor. No, it was a last ditch effort to reproduce in what he thought was the end of his life. It was this unusual and sudden change in him that caught my eye, and I remembered him up there, all dusty, and unloved. I began to water him again, and rescued him from the throws of death. That was the one and only time he bloomed in eleven years.
I'm writing all this to tell you that this January I renewed my commitment to my first plant. I took the time to look up his care needs, and have faithfully watered and humidified him every Wednesday morning for the last 3 months. I have fertilized, and removed the dead parts, and for the first time in 10 years, he is growing again. I think I'll celebrate by buying him a bigger pot. I now know that in order for him to bloom, he must stay dark, cool, and rarely watered. I think I'll try that next winter. Until then, I just want him to spread his little branches, and grow like he's never grown before. Spike, you are loved.