Running Past Me, Loud and Laughing

“That’s the one you picked?”

I could tell immediately that my mom was not happy with the plant I bought for my grandmother. She took it from my hands to take a closer look, and I have to admit, out in the sun, standing outside the school building, the plant looked sad and sickly.

“I liked the leaves,” I told her. They were prehistoric looking, thick and spiky, like baby cactus leaves, and there were only five of them, clinging to life on a tall skinny stem.

I was six years old, in first grade, and we started walking home, side by side on the sidewalk. When the light turned green, we crossed the street, and when some kids ran past us with their big leafy plants, loud and laughing, I couldn’t help but think I had done something wrong.

“This is the one he picked,” my mom tells my grandmother as she hands her the plant.

“I liked the leaves,” I tell her.

“It’s beautiful,” my grandmother says, and I believe her.

Growing up, we visited my grandparents every Sunday, and I would always go the windowsill to look at the plant. I liked the leaves,

and over time, more and more of them appeared, and they branched out and over the pot, making their way down toward the floor. My grandmother pruned the plant and transplanted the clippings, and by the time I was in college, the entire windowsill was lined end to end with my plant.

“Was that the one I picked?” I asked my grandmother, pointing to one of the pots. She couldn’t remember, and neither could I.

My grandmother died seven years ago. She was ninety four years old.

I am stuck in traffic, on my way to the train station to pick up my mother. We are spending Thanksgiving together for the first time in many, many years. I am tempted to ask her about the plant, whether she remembers it, and what happened to it. But…

I lean over and kiss her, and I take her bag, and we walk side by side to the car parked in the garage. “Look at all the leaves,” she says, pointing to the fallen leaves along my street, and I have to admit, out in the sun, standing outside with my kids running past me, loud and laughing,

it’s beautiful.

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