family life

The little cactus that could

“If you want plenty of experience in dealing with difficult people, then have kids.”  Bo Bennett, contemporary American author

Have you ever felt guilty tossing a poinsettia into the trash after Christmas? I am one of those who has to walk quickly away from the bin or the brush pile lest I hear cries of anguish. That soft-headedness is how I wound up with a Red-Headed Irishman in my kitchen.

It was my oldest daughter who bought the little squirt of a cactus a year or so ago. She’s fond of the prickly plants and insisted on buying it even though I warned her that her bedroom windows do not provide nearly enough light for a desert species. Fast forward several months (cacti obviously have endurance — I’m not sure if she ever actually watered it) and little Patrick is camped out next to the sink.

There, he gets all the sunlight any plant could want. And, that’s all I planned that he would ever get. I don’t like cacti. They’re dry looking. They’re prickly. And, this one’s in the way of the garbage-disposal switch.

He’s grown on me, though. It was a cold winter and houses historic enough for wavy-glass windows are drafty. I put him in a terrarium. He looked a bit forlorn. I added a couple inches of gum-ball hued marbles to the bottom and he looked almost cute. Then, I started watering him, even though it’s impossible to do so without getting fingerfuls of needles in my skin.

And, he grew — and grew some more. Ring after ring of fresh green growth now sprouts like a bald spot above the red spikes that give this variety its name.

“Admit it, you love that cactus, mom,” my daughter teased me recently. I scowled back at her. “I most certainly do not.” She laughed and walked out of the room, leaving not only Patrick but various dishes on various counters — everywhere but in the sink where they belonged.

I rolled my eyes. I could have called her back into the kitchen to collect her debris. I often do. But, she’s a teen and I can feel the clock ticking on this under-one-roof stage of life. So, this time, I just picked the dishes up myself and took them to the sink, where her Red-Headed Irishman now peeks over the top of his protective glass. It could be my imagination, but I believe I saw him wink.

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