Yesterday, as I watered all my houseplants, I was reminded of a time – long ago – when I was living back home. After I graduated from undergraduate school, I found myself at loose ends. I had a teaching degree in secondary education, but there were no jobs available. And even if there were, I was not sure I wanted to be a public school teacher. I’d majored in Drama and Speech, minored in English Language and Literature, and that particular concentration didn’t make for an employer’s dream hire.
I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my life. I had no money. So I moved back home into the bedroom that I had gone home to on various breaks from college. It was nicely decorated, of course. Knowing me, the girl who wallpapered the inside of her Barbie case, did you doubt it? But I wanted to make it my own in a way that I hadn’t during my four years of college. Stereo? Check. Hundreds of record albums? Check. Lots of books? Of course.
I had never really had anything to do with my mom’s garden – which was minimal, at best. The joys of gardening were yet to be discovered. But I loved houseplants and there was a little shop not far from our home that was all about houseplants. Plants, pots, watering cans, misters, books about plants – it was all there. There were a lot of fairly exotic plants along with the standard favorites.
I started to hang out there when I wasn’t substitute teaching. I asked the owner all sorts of questions. I learned. I started buying houseplants, one by one, and my small bedroom became a greenhouse.
It’s a tricky thing, moving back home after college. I’d been off on my own for four years and suddenly I was back in my childhood bedroom in a tiny house with two younger sisters and my parents and though I loved my family, I was (and am) a person who likes solitude.
Making my bedroom a haven just for me was absolutely essential.
I had a many-tiered plant stand that was full-up with plants. I had hanging plants on either side of my two windows. I had pots on window sills, in groupings on the floor. I loved watering and misting them and repotting them when they outgrew their current ‘housing.’
I was nuts about my plants.
This same plant shop was just down the street from a well-known needlepoint shop, something I was also into at the time. Plants and needlepoint. Such strong memories.
After I eventually moved out and was on my own, I still had houseplants. I had them in Philadelphia when I moved away to go to graduate school. And in Cambridge, when I started teaching at Boston University. In fact, one of the things that was hardest for me when I moved to San Diego was giving up my plants. I couldn’t transport them to California (I don’t think you could bring any plants into the state and even if I could have, I didn’t want them inside a moving van for more than a week) and so I passed them on to a good friend. It was like giving up my children.
Since then I’ve always had a plant or two, sometimes many more – depending on how much light the apartment or house I was living in received. My first studio apartment in Philadelphia had just one window and it was in the back of the building, so there was very little light. It was the kind of place where I always had to have one or more lights on. No plants there. But in the two other apartments I lived in while I was in Philadelphia? Yes. Much more light. And my Cambridge apartment was full of windows, including a charming bay window, so I went a little crazy in the best possible way and had plants everywhere.
When I moved here and had my own gardens for the first time – not temporarily established at a rental cottage, but at our very own house – I had just one houseplant for the first couple of years. It’s the one you see above by the staircase. It was in our rental, as well. I was so busy adding plants to the garden beds and establishing even more beds, that I didn’t feel the need for more houseplants. I was nurturing outside. Then I got a pothos (the one in the first photo) and then I rooted a cutting of that plant and another pothos appeared in the bathroom.
Now, the gardens are established and I have houseplants everywhere, along with whatever outdoor plants I decide to overwinter. I’m back where I was when I was 21. Full circle.
That makes me very happy. Plants and pottery.
I’m off to Hartford this afternoon to spend the night in preparation for a full day of rehearsal tomorrow. I’ll try to post tomorrow morning, depending on how much time I have. If I don’t post, you’ll know why.