We fought about a plant the other day. Even as the argument unfolded we both knew it was ridiculous. Who fights about a plant? I mean, it was clearly not really about a plant. The plant was just the mutually agreed upon scapegoat for our individual frustrations—the symbol of my anxiety and his desire to fix it. The rain didn’t help matters much either but, I’m getting ahead of myself.
It all started when we decided to un-deck the halls and move on from Christmas 2020 — it officially being 2021 and all. I’m always sad to see the end of another Christmas however I’m usually ready to have my house back by January 1. But this year there was one thing I wasn’t ready to take down: our Christmas tree. I wanted the sparkle of the lights to get me through the damn winter. This lead to my — what I thought was — brilliant idea, to go out and get a house plant to string lights on and help curb my post-holiday blues. Ian agreed then countered my proposal with his own idea. “I don’t want a fake one though. Let’s go to the nursery.”
Now here is something you should know about me: I kill cactuses. Indoor plants of even the hardiest variety, are not my thing. I can keep children and dogs alive but they use all of my care-taking energy leaving nothing left for living, breathing plants. When I proceeded to remind my husband about these qualities of mine, he said he would make sure it survived. I protested but conceded — I think they call it a compromise — and we went to the nursery.
This is where the rain comes in. It was raining. Really raining. And the wind was so strong it had knocked branches the size of small trees down in our backyard that morning. But the nursery was mostly indoors, if you consider a plastic-roofed greenhouse indoor which, on a dry or sunny day I probably would. But as we’ve established, it was not a dry or sunny day. So instead of being met with the expected respite from the storm when we burst through the doors, we were met with the sound of thousands of raindrops landing every second on taut plastic. I was unnerved. Still we found our way to the back of the store where Ian spotted something right away. But someone else was looking at it. Then they took it.
“Damn, that was the one I wanted.”
“Well maybe we should just go get a fake one then.”
“I don’t want a fake one. There has to be something else.”
I nodded but was getting annoyed. I just wanted something green and full to string some lights on. This was my idea to help solve my growing sense of dread that the beautiful part of winter was over and I still had months of the non-beautiful, grey, rainy, windy and covid-infused part of it to get through.
We lapped the entire plant section at least five times with the rain pelting down above us like a group of drummers all playing along to different songs. We found one. It was nice, but it wasn’t the sturdy plant I wanted to put Christmas lights on. And it was $100 because, as I now know, plants are expensive.
I said “Let’s just get it. I can’t listen to this rain anymore. It’s giving me heart palpitations.”
We made our way back to the front of the store through the discounted Christmas decor. I stopped to look at something and caught a glimpse of Ian beside me with the plant in his arms. All I could think was that the rain was so loud and I didn’t want that plant. I shook my head quickly to try and push the pounding rain out of my ears but an anxious breath caught in my chest and sent a shiver through my heart and lungs.
“I just want to get out of here.”
“Yes this rain is ridiculous. Let’s go pay.”
“Except I don’t want to spend $100 on a plant I’m just going to kill. Also this plant was meant to bring me joy and it isn’t going to do that if it’s dead.”
“We aren’t going to kill it.”
“I also don’t think it’s strong enough for lights.”
“It will grow quickly.”
I started talking faster, trying to race the rain. “Maybe, but the point was to have something to put lights on to replace the Christmas tree. Today. Not when it grows big enough. I don’t want a baby plant”
Ian put the plant down beside him. “Fine, let’s just go.”
“You can’t just leave it here, that’s not where we found it.”
“Yes, I can. You’re starting to get panicky.”
I swallowed the lump of guilt in my throat. I didn’t want him to be mad. “Forget it, it’s fine. Please just get the plant. I will get something else another day.” He picked it up again and took two steps before he stopped.
“What?” I asked.
“Maybe we should just wait. I don’t want to spend the money if it isn’t the one I really wanted. I was settling because I wanted to make it easier for you to take the Christmas tree down. But if this one won’t even work for that then there’s really no point”
I rolled my eyes. “OK then. Perfect. Let’s put it back and get out of here” This time we returned it to where we found it and practically raced out of the building to our car.
We were quiet for most of the 30-minute drive home. There didn’t seem to be much point in apologizing but I tried anyways. “I’m sorry.”
I paused and smiled. “I’m not really sure. Arguing over a plant” He smiled back and held my hand on top of the centre console between us.
When we got home we packed away the Christmas stuff but left the tree standing in its corner. Later that night we sat down and I stared at the lights for a while, letting my eyes blur and refocus. We laughed about our stupid fight knowing we were both trying to fix the same problem and agreed whole-heartedly that the rain on that roof was intolerable.
Three days later Ian came home with a large, sturdy and 100% plastic tree. We took down the Christmas tree and, after transferring one string of lights over, packed everything away without an ounce of sadness or panic. We agreed to get a real baby-plant for somewhere else in the house but, to leave it naked/light-free in order to give it the greatest chance of survival under my (un)watchful eye.
So in the end, we figured it out. And now we have a new winter tree that makes me happy. And judging by my kids reactions as they came into the house after school, it makes them happy too. Although they did all laugh at me when I told them I named it.
I call her Winter the Fake Fiddle Fig Tree.