Three Leaves And A Stick

Me: Where’s the ice cube tray?
Ken: The what?
Me: The ice cube tray! Where is it?
Ken: In the freezer?
Me: No, it’s not. What did you do with it?
Ken: Why would I have done anything with it?
Me: Well, it’s not in here. Where did you put it?!
Ken: I sold it on EBay.
Me: Did you at least get a good price for it, KEN?!
Ken: Unfortunately, no.
Me DAMN YOUR EYES!!

5 minutes later…

Ken: I see you found the ice cube tray. Where was it?
Me (sheepishly): Behind a bag of frozen French fries.

Now, you may be wondering what on earth prompted such an overreaction to the missing (temporarily) ice cube tray, but the fact of the matter was that my orchid was starting to look a little wilty and I realized to my horror that I had failed to provide it with its requisite 2 ice cubes a week since the previous Friday. And under normal circumstances, I wouldn’t have been quite so panicky except that I had recently returned to work after the holidays and discovered that the incredibly lush orchid given to me by my team for my birthday had succumbed to my neglect and all the flowers had fallen off. Here’s what it looked like when I initially received it—it was glorious, more’s the pity:

Destined to become 3 leaves and a stick.

Yes, once again, I was now left with three leaves and a stick. When they gave it to me, I was overcome with gratitude, but at the same time, I felt sad because I knew it wouldn’t be long before I committed yet another planticide. Completely unintentional of course, what we would call ‘involuntary plantslaughter’, but with the same dire results. Because the fact is, I’m just not good with houseplants.

Don’t get me wrong—I love my garden, and I love plants. As long as they’re outside. I have a rule in my garden—I will plant you and occasionally water you, and the rest is your deal. Most garden plants are just fine with this and manage to thrive without much help from me, aside from me making sure that weeds don’t choke them out. House plants are a whole other matter, though. I seem to have absolutely no knack with houseplants whatsoever. Unfortunately, for both me and them, I really want plants in the house. I haven’t had any for a while, aside from the straggly hibiscus that Ken’s mom gave me years ago, which spends all summer outside looking gorgeous then comes in for the winter and pretty much withers away under my care until the weather gets warm again, and a stupid fern that Ken won’t let me throw away. I got the fern as far as the front porch at the beginning of January, and while I was vacuuming up all the dead leaves, Ken snuck it back in the house, because I’m “only allowed to have one fern and if I can’t keep it alive all winter I can’t get a new one”. It’s like a test of character, or a Nietzschean struggle of the wills. Nietzsche once said “that which doesn’t kill us makes us stronger”, so I like to think that if there’s ever a zombie apocalypse, I’ve done my part to ensure that the fern will survive. Last spring, Ken bought me a pot of daffodils as a gift and it sat proudly on the kitchen island until the lack of consistent watering did it in. Well, how am I supposed to know that it needed to be watered EVERY DAY? What am I, its mother? So the next time we went to the grocery store, I decided I wanted a replacement plant, and Ken was no help at all.

Me: Oh look! They have orchids—I’ve always wanted an orchid!
Ken: They’re $24.99. Are you really going to pay that much money for something you’re just going to kill?
Me: I won’t kill it!
Ken: Yeah, you will.
Me: What about this campanula? Wait, they look pretty fragile…
Ken: You’ll kill it.
Me: I don’t kill everything, you know.
Ken: (snickers) They have nice cut flowers. Get a bouquet—they’re supposed to die eventually anyway.
Me: Wait, there are orchids here for $14.99!…no, you’re right. It’ll die. What about these African violets? I had one once and it lived for a long time.
Ken: I remember that. It’s a good choice—it might survive.
Me: You’re so mean!
Ken: I have to be—I’m a member of the Vegetation Protection League.

So I got the African violet instead of the orchid. It was dead within the month. But in November, I received the wilting orchid in question from a friend who couldn’t be at my book launch, so she gave it to me as a congratulatory gift, and I was determined that it would live to see February. It will not. Despite my ice-cubing and sweet talking, it’s looking worse by the day.

But I don’t think it’s just me—I honestly believe that orchids are all destined at some point to become three leaves and a stick. In fact, I was in the kitchen at work on Friday, getting ice cubes for my orchid AS ONE DOES, and a new colleague was making toast:

Me: Oh hey, how’s it going? I just need to get some ice cubes for my orchid.
New Colleague: Oh, I have one of those. The flowers fell off, and it’s only a few leaves and a stick right now, but I hope it’ll bloom again.
Me: It won’t. They never do.
New Colleague: Sigh. I know.

But I will persevere, even if my orchid IS just three leaves and a stick, for the sentimental value. As for Ken, it’s a shame that he didn’t really sell my ice cube tray on EBay, because we’ve had it almost since we got married, and when I went to the EBay website, I discovered that he could have gotten fifty bucks for a “vintage plastic ice cube tray”. That’s enough for at least FIVE leaves and a stick.