Sitting in my kitchen several years ago, I wrote a list of things I did not want to forget to pack. Moving is definitely a major task, fraught with stress and chaos. I’ve moved several times in my life, and it seems there is always something left behind, something that goes missing in the process. I didn’t want to increase my worry about potential loss, so I decided that writing a comprehensive list in categories could help avoid some moving day anxiety. Odds and ends and other belongings would not be forgotten on moving day.
Linen Closet. Pantry. Garage Work Bench. Crawl Space. Top Shelves in Guest Room Closet. The list continued. My eyes wandered out the window. A glimmer in one of our trees sparked a thought: The Backyard! My backyard was adorned with all sorts of hanging decorations from mobiles made of weather-worn driftwood to tiny solar-powered butterfly lights draped around bushes. I ran outside with my paper and pen and took inventory. The yard decor had become so much a part of the landscape that I might have moved without taking any of it.
As I scanned the small yard, I realized we had quite an assortment of flower pots. I would not be leaving those behind! And as I scribbled the ever-lengthening list, I decided I would not be dumping out the dirt or discarding the flowers living within each vessel. Call me crazy for wanting to bring pots, plants, and a lot of dirt with me in the move. But I raised those botanical babies and leaving them behind (or worse, dumping them out — shudder shudder) was simply not an option.
Realtor: “You could leave them here for the new owners as a gift!”
Husband: “Can you take the flowers but leave the dirt?”
Neighbor: “We’ll take whatever you want to donate!” (wink wink)
Mommy: “Of course take them!”
Moving guy: “Uhh, we don’t put plants on the truck. And no dirt. That’ll just go everywhere.”
Friends: “Yeah, you’re a little crazy. We love you anyway.”
Me: I’m taking my flowers.
Borrowing a minivan the week before the actual move, we transported our flower children to a new backyard. The pots were left in the hot, dusty, open space on the concrete. Not a tree in sight to provide relief from scorching heat. We weren’t living in the house at that point, so daily watering did not happen.
You know how moving goes…it’s sheer madness. No matter how organized you think you are, boxes get put in the wrong places, belongings get piled up until they can be put away, and taking a breather in the backyard doesn’t really happen.
Many of the flowery fellows were unable to take the heat despite good efforts to provide water. And honestly, with so much going on, they didn’t get routinely watered. Missing their morning fog and chilly nights, some simply expired. But I did what I could to nurse them.
There was one little flowerpot which held a Charlie-Brown-Christmas-tree-like branch. I didn’t have the heart to plop it into the green recycling bin. Although I watered it and watered it, there was no growth and no bloom. I knew it had to be a cherished flower because it was in a cherished pot. Determined not to give up on it, I began making daily efforts to help it.
Winter came, and I gave the perennials water and fertilizer when needed. We started a landscaping project in March. There was dust, dust, and more dust. One morning, the landscaper perused my ceramic pots and said, “I can get rid of all these dead plants for you. You’ll have some nice color around the lawn pretty soon.”
“Well,” I said, “I’m not sure what’s dead and what’s alive. I think I’ll wait and see what happens.”
“Allllright,” he scratched his face. “I don’t think any of them are alive, and this one here is actually a weed.” He tapped his muddy boot on the side of the little pot. “I’ll just dump that for you.”
He bent down to lift the little pot. Something in me said NOOOO! You are not dumping anything! “That’s okay!” I blurted out. “I’ll sort through them and see what I can salvage.”
The grin on his face told me he was thinking, okay but there’s nothing to salvage.
When the grass and trees were all in place, when the chunky bark was scattered, and the dust cleared, I went through and did salvage what I could. I was down to maybe a third of the plants I had leaving Napa. And the “weed” – I tried figuring out what flower it had been by its leaf, but I didn’t know. I brought it to a local nursery to see if they knew. The cashier pronounced it a weed. “If looks like weed on the outside, must be a weed on the inside.” She laughed. I took it home.
I felt like giving it Linus’ blanket. Instead, I transplanted it and gave it some Miracle-Gro. I found a protected yet sunny spot and watered it daily. I just could not to give up on it. It had been able to self-preserve for a long time through scorching temps of summer and near-frosts of winter. It deserved a real chance.
We had a long-ish vacation that following summer (one year after moving) and I called upon a neighbor to water the backyard blossoms. Of course, a heat wave hit and several pots contained only remnants of petals when we got home. There was the Charlie Brown branchlet, not dead but not thriving. The neighbor commented that she was sorry she couldn’t bring some of the flowers back to life.
With fall approaching, we brought home some marigolds and mums. Surrounding the branchlet with a colorful display emphasized how forlorn it was. But then something started happening. Leaves were beginning to emerge. Where there was only twig, there were now shoots. Crispy shrivels became a lush display.
Then one bright and sunny morning I went outside and stopped in my tracks. Smack in the center of the pot, sitting in jade lushness, was a bright, beautiful, raspberry bloom. It saluted the morning sun with petals high and mighty. It beamed vigor and vitality. Weed it was not. Gerbera daisy it was.
For the rest of the season, that African daisy exploded with blooms. Pink pinwheels of perfection. Cheerful and bright, the little Gerbera, named for German botanist Traugott Gerber (1710-1743), kept producing flowers. It bloomed long after its flora friends expired. It sits out there today, offering color, charm, and character to the garden. It lets me know when it needs something extra. Once I knew what it was, I could give it full sunshine, afternoon shade, and proper amounts of water. What I didn’t realize was that I probably over-watered it in an effort to save it from heat waves, and I drowned the roots. Too much of any one thing is not good for any living creature.
I’ve added hibiscus, gardenias, geraniums, coreopsis and more to the container garden over time. They all need care. Each has its preferences for sun, shade, temperature, and water. Pests have munched, hoses have toppled, frisbees have whacked, and hailstones have hit, but they persevere. Each brings its own personality to the scene, and though vastly different, each has beauty.
Just like people with autism.
Without care, concern, and balanced conditions, people with autism wilt. They might shrivel and turn inward. Without those around them who truly believe in them, the tendency might be to stay dormant. They are alive but not thriving. They have within them the potential to bloom and shine and contribute. But their true colors won’t show until someone believes in them. Fully. Infinitely.
And often times, sacrifice is required on the part of the believer. Believing is not a Target Run and Done. It’s a long journey on a slow moving train. It is bringing that cup of water every day, sometimes with very tired hands. Making sure you’re doing all you can. It’s allowing the sunshine to get in day after day after day. It’s also keeping the intermittent hailstones away who show up in the form of pessimistic, ignorant, and often arrogant fools who only see weeds.
I’ve seen a few Charlie Browns out there who see beyond all the spotlighted tinsel to find tiny wooden trees that need care. The Lucys are always there, coming along and telling them it’s not worth it. They don’t “seem to fit the modern spirit.” And I’ve seen only a few Linuses who willingly give their “blanket” to a person with autism. They intuitively know how to drape it: not too tightly, not too loosely. They believe it’s not such a bad little tree at all. It’s not that helpers don’t hang their heads and close their eyes in despair like Charlie Brown. It’s that the integrity within, the belief nestled in the heart, boosts their spirit and opens their eyes. Their belief is contagious. There can be joyous celebrations with bright twinkling lights and music and Snoopy-style dancing.
Discarding a tree, a flower, a person…it could never create that joy. Thank goodness for the ones with the Charlie Brown attitudes and the Linus hearts. The ones who will see past exteriors. The ones who know potential exists in everything and have a relentless yet gentle determination to bring it out. They know: if it looks like a weed on the outside, it must need some love on the inside.
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