Wednesday, March 16, 2005

The Secret Life of Plants

I bought seeds a month ago: Basil, Coriander, and Chives. More about that in a minute. Kids have been pestering me for a pet. A pet rabbit was their preference. I had to veto that idea since we didnt have a place for a rabbit. A cage would be too confining. There is nothing more depressing to look at than a caged creature. And to have it roam the yard free is out of the question. The neighbors' cats would have it for lunch. But a pet would be good for the kids. Caring for a living thing might make them more compassionate. The only logical choice would be to get them puppies. Ok.

Until one day, my 8-year old, Cael came bursting into the room all excited. Her okra seed! It grew, she said. She took me by the hand and showed me a budding little plant that looked nothing like an okra. 'That isnt an okra,' I said.

'But I planted a seed here. And it grew.'

'Where did you get the okra seed?'

'From the refrigerator.'

We went to the fridge and I asked her where the seed came from and she pointed me to a mangled young okra with its still-white seeds. They have to be because the okra was going into the bulanglang that was to be that evening's dinner. 'Those seeds won't grow. Theyre too young.'


'I tell you what. We'll go to National Bookstore and get some seeds for you and your sister.'


So we went and got the seeds. The coriander was mine, the basil was for my 6-yr old, Isabel and the chives were for Cael. We planted them in little pots and I have them water them everyday. The basil grew first. Days passed without any sign of the coriander and chives, but we were still watering and hoping. I hoped Cael's seeds grew soon. She and her sister have had this juvenile sibling rivalry that's been going on since Isabel was born, and right now Isabel's having the better of it. She's the type of kid everybody likes and it makes Cael a little rebellious. And Isabel's plant growing first isnt going to help things any. But my plant wasnt growing either. Maybe that'll show her that it can happen to anybody, including dad, and I'm not worried so she shouldnt be either.

Cael's plants started sprouting soon enough. And boy, was she glad. They look like tiny blades of grass shooting straight up from the soil and she couldnt keep her hands off them. I asked her to water them and she may have gone overboard because when she was through with it, they werent standing straight up anymore. But theyll live, I guess.

The coriander is looking good, too. The sprouts have broken free of their hulls and I could see the pale, white roots.

In a few days, we'll have to transplant them from the pot to a suitable location where they can grow, but I can't seem to find a place for them. Whatever plot of land we have is either under the shade of a tree or is already too crowded with grass and other plants. Maybe we'll wait til the plants are big and strong enough to compete.

It's like raising kids, I suppose. You know one day youll have to let them go but you want to make sure that they have what it takes to make it out there. And there are fewer and fewer places where you can let them go where theyll be safe. All you can do is make sure they have whatever they need: a sense of honor, and fairness, and strength of character. And a sense that they are important enough to accept in their hearts that they shouldnt take crap from anybody. Until they fall in love and all that sense of honor and fairness and sense of character and not taking crap goes out the window. I can't help them with that. I can only be there. They have to go through that on their own.

I'm glad we thought of getting the seeds. Puppies poop.

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