Thursday, May 12, 2016

The 36th Vinca

Let it be known that I am a highly controlled person.

Note that I said controlled, not controlling. Controlling is a loaded term that implies crazy and mean, and I’m not one to admit my character flaws.

(Side note: I’ve always let others do this for me, and as most people will choose talking about you behind your back to your face, I don’t hear them say it, which is the same as not having any character flaws at all.)

Things spiral out of control very quickly. I’m no great multi-tasker, and it’s almost all I can do to keep up with daily responsibilities. With a full calendar of personal and family activities that constantly changes, I find it difficult to go about my regular business, so I keep a handle on things by adhering closely to the task at hand, and recalibrating often.

This is why my family hears things like “Did someone take a scoop of peanut butter out of this jar?”

Because the jar is new, and I didn’t eat any peanut butter, and I didn’t see anyone eat any peanut butter, so the only two options are: 1) someone here ate it, and 2) a hungry stranger at the store did, and I unwittingly bought a tainted jar of peanut butter. The possibility of option two is why I check the protective seal on all jarred goods before purchasing. But sometimes I forget, which accounts for many strange inquiries.

Life is exhausting.

* * *

It’s mid-spring here, the week after Mother’s Day. In this part of the world that means it’s planting time, and in my area if you wait until Father’s Day to purchase flowers to plant, you will be left with half-dead daisies and pawed-through flats of impatiens, the most high-strung of maintenance-heavy seasonal flora. Impatiens are pretty but tedious.

Also what my husband says about me.

I keep a record of plants that I buy each year. We have a small yard, but I like lots of flowers, and because I can’t even remember if I brushed my teeth this morning, it’s ludicrous to assume I know things like how many marigolds I planted last spring. So I keep a list of what I buy and where I planted it and how much money I spent. Because nothing says controlling like knowing how much money a bag of dirt costs.

Ahem. Controlled.

This year, among many other vegetative beauties, I bought a flat of 36 vincas to plant in some hanging baskets and window boxes (vincas are the prototypical flower – five petals, green oval leaves). There would be extras - I wanted 28 plants for hanging baskets and window boxes, and I’d use the remaining eight plants to fill out big pots and other empty spaces.

I planted all afternoon according to the list, and all went swimmingly until the very end, after I had washed my hands and scratched all the itchy spots on my skin (hello, poison ivy, I’ll see you in a few days).

While cross-referencing the flowers I had just planted to my record of purchased plants, I counted only 35 vincas.

Thirty-five. But I bought 36. I was sure of it, having counted the stems at the greenhouse the day before. You know how sometimes you buy a flat of flowers and not all the little cuppy-things have a stem in them? SOMETIMES THIS HAPPENS. But I counted 36 stems, and I could only find 35 planted flowers. The thirty-sixth vinca was missing.

A less controlled person would forget about it. Would let it go. I remembered the post-it on my office wall – Let Go, it says. My word of the year. Let it go, man. It’s one flower. Get over it.

Ignoring my own advice, I circled the yard again, list in hand. Counted. Cross-referenced. Five in that pot. One in the ground. One in that big pot over there. Four in each hanging basket. Eight in the boxes. Thirty-three, thirty-four, thirty-five. Did I throw it away? Nonsense. One who knows that someone scooped a scoop of peanut butter does not just throw away flowers.

Let go, I implored myself.

For the rest of the evening, I managed.

You know how something gnaws at you? Welcome to my every waking moment. The next day I woke up and at first light gazed at the new plants from the warmth of the kitchen window, amazed at how much they grew overnight. At once the memory of the missing vinca sprang into my mind. I will find it, I vowed.

I walked outside in the chill, coffee in hand. I mentally went through the plant checklist again, by now a new groove in my brain. Thirty-three, thirty-four, thirty-five.

And I saw it. The 36th vinca. It was nestled in a large pot next to a probably-peaking coleus plant. By August this small specimen will be dead after giving up a scrabbling existence in the shadow of its pot-mate, but there it was, green and glittering with the morning dew, naïvely hopeful of the future. I exhaled, able to go on with the day, with life.

Like I said: controlled. Not controlling.

girl, you'll be a woman soon



  1. I admire you for keeping a list and a total. I think I would cry if I knew how much money I have spent in the past on now dead flowers! ;) Glad you found your vinca!

    1. I hate thinking about how much money we spend on consumable things. Someone once said how she hates thinking about the money she spends on food - ultimately, it's flushing money down the toilet.

      I'd rather think about how much money I spend on flowers.

  2. Great news about the vinca.
    But I still need to know WHO ATE THE PEANUT BUTTER?

    1. That particular time it was my husband. He didn't eat it - he scooped out a scoop for the mousetraps he sets in our gardening shed. I harassed my family for days until he confessed.

      This is the information that I store in my brain.

  3. I'm so glad you found it! This would have been me, too, pacing until I found the missing plant. It looks beautiful and comfortably nestled where it is.

    Found you via Coach Daddy's blog--seems we both have books within that are itching to come out!

    1. So glad I have a partner in crime on both counts!