Posted Jan 29, 2010 (My first Christmas season as a widow)
When I was growing up in the suburbs of Baltimore, my family never had any gardens or houseplants, so, I had zero experience with raising anything green. When I was twenty, I moved to Whiteford, Md; and pretty quickly took on the identity of a country girl. I planted a huge vegetable garden and learned to can green beans, tomatoes and peaches and also educated myself in the domestic art of jelly and jam-making from the wild berries I picked along the roadside.
Slowly, I accumulated a variety of houseplants, usually propagated from cuttings from my friends. Among those plants was a Christmas Cactus that I have nurtured for over thirty-five years now. I learned by trial and error and murdered many a perfectly good plant!
I lived in a wooded area, so the light availability was not desirable for sun loving plants. If you mix in my lack of experience and knowledge, complicated by not having the best of growing conditions, you get spindly, struggling plants. It was survival of the fittest and that’s what my Christmas Cactus proved itself to be. It adapted to its’ low light environment and never really grew very much; it just survived… for twenty-five years.
When Buck and I married, I became a Pennsylvanian, moving to the A-Frame house that he built not far from the Md.- Pa. state line. This environment was better, but still not ideal. While visiting a friend of Buck’s, I noticed that they had their Christmas Cactus outside where it could get rained on. That got my attention. Then, Buck’s Mom gave me a book on houseplants and I was shocked by what I learned! All those years, I was under the false impression that my cactus required very little water. I didn’t realize that it was a succulent and not a true cactus, and needed so much more water than I had provided. I had been unknowingly guilty of cactus cruelty. Not only had it been light deprived, but the poor plant had been thirsty for over TWENTY-FIVE YEARS! When I started watering it properly and moved it outside onto our porch in the summer, it started to grow again. I was thrilled!
After we married, we acquired what I thought were two more Christmas Cacti, but they bloomed faithfully every year at Thanksgiving. Although the original cactus thrived, it never did bloom in the ten plus years that it lived in our home in Airville. While we lived in our camper for eight months, building our home, all our house plants and furniture lived in our neighbor’s basement, and it was fun to witness the transformation that took place introducing our plants to much better living conditions, when we moved into the new house. Our first autumn season in our new home brought numerous blossoms on the two Thanksgiving plants, while Buck was in West Virginia for his annual three week hunting get away. All three plants had been subjected to the same conditions and level of attention but still no blossoms on ‘the old-timer’. This has always been a disappointment to me.
When I had my candlelight dinner with the Lord on Thanksgiving evening this year, the twin cacti were radiant with pink blooms and added lots of color to my dining room. Now, imagine my surprise, when I noticed that the ‘old-timer’ also had signs of new life on the tips of some of the leaf ends, as the twins were finishing their showy display! At first, I wasn’t sure if it was just new growth, or if indeed, this living object I had nurtured for so long, was going to come to life with a flashy demonstration of colorful flowers, just in time for Christmas!!!
The "old timer" started blooming around December 20th, so I was concerned that I would miss the long awaited treat, while I was away from home spending the holidays with my family. After returning from my twelve-day stay at Sarah and Bob’s home on January 5th, I thought it was likely that I had missed the show. Much to my delight, only three blossoms were spent! Not only did I not miss the show, I am very excited that the blossoms are still coming, with six flowers still remaining! I LOVE IT!!!
I don’t believe that our loved ones can look down on us, once they have left the reality they knew here on earth, but I do trust that my sweetheart has face-to-face contact with the Lord. Consequently, I wonder if perhaps Buck made the request to bless his Girfren in such a unique way! I have received this wondrous, timely gift, as a Christmas surprise from my Bofren, or maybe a precious present from the Lord, just for me! Either way, it is a Christmas miracle I will never forget!!! The Lord and my Bofren both knew what JOY this would bring to my heart!