I was supposed to dispose of them while Chris was away. That was my intention. It's always worked in the past--wait until Chris isn't around and can't see what I do, then follow through on the deed. Upon his return, let him know I've done it, when he has no choice but to accept it. This time, however, I didn't have the courage. This time, I lost my nerve.
In late May, Chris and I bought two huge baskets from the local nursery, filled with a variety of beautiful flowers. Last year, we installed a couple of decorative hooks to the inside of two columns holding up the roof above our back door. That was the new home for the baskets. I knew they'd look amazing there. What pleasure they'd give us when we went out and saw their brilliant cheerfulness.
The year before, we cheaped out. Money was a little tighter because we had so much landscaping work to do around the yard, so we bought a couple of hanging baskets filled with non-hanging petunias for $9.99 apiece. Well, we got our money's worth. A few short weeks later, the baskets looked awful, like we'd paid as little for them as we had. I resolved to make better choices next year.
Which I did. At $35.00 per, the baskets this May were spectacular and lush, overflowing with hanging petunias and other intricate flowers I don't know the names of. One basket was filled with white flowers and the other with red. I was so convinced, having spent far more money than I could imagine previously on two flower baskets, that we'd continue to enjoy their beauty well into October.
But was I wrong. Several weeks later, whole branches of petunias died, leaving patches of brown stems and wilted flowers throughout. I continued to water the baskets once a day and hoped the plants would revive, but they didn't. In fact, they got worse. So much so that I didn't want to see them when I went out the back door. Too depressing to be reminded of all the money we'd wasted.
I told Chris they had to go. Of course, he objected, as I knew he would. This is the guy who saves every living thing. We've had house plants consisting of no more than a sickly stem and a single yellow leaf, yet he wants to save them. When we lived in Victoria, his bathroom, which was brilliant with light, became known as the plant graveyard--their final stop before they went out for good.
At the very least, I told Chris, I had to remove the baskets from their hooks and put them down on the deck, propped on a couple of overturned nursery pots. To tell you the truth, I was embarrassed at how badly they'd turned out and didn't want our neighbors to see them, especially since their baskets, which they'd paid a lot less for, were full and beautiful.
Down on the deck, the baskets looked even worse. Chris and I continued to take care of them, even though I knew it was a lost cause. My heart cried whenever I saw them. I felt like a failed parent, like I couldn't be trusted with anything alive, even though our houseplants are thriving. Every time I looked at the baskets, I thought they must be in pain. How could they look like that and not be?
Whenever I threatened to get rid of them, Chris continued to object. He wouldn't hear of it. Instead, he'd go outside and, garden clippers in hand, sit on a deck chair near the pots and painstakingly remove every brown stem, every spent flower. From the kitchen window, I watched him try to save what little was left. He seemed like a child, willing a dead bug back to life.
Chris's restoration routine took place twice this summer, on both baskets. No matter how bad they looked, he cared for them as though his tender, loving touch was sure to return their vigor. The amount of love and attention he devoted to them broke my heart. I wished, for his sake, they'd recover, but when there's no hope, there's no hope. Why couldn't he see that?
Before Chris left to visit his dad in Castlegar a few weeks ago, I told him the two baskets would be gone when he returned. I told him maybe he couldn't do what needed to be done, but I could. And I was determined I would. I couldn't imagine keeping them around until autumn. Sarcastically, I told him to say his good-byes because that's the last he'd see of them.
He gave me the unhappy face. Disgusted, he told me I was heartless, had no respect for living things. "I'm sure you can't wait until I leave," he said, "so you can get rid of them." "You're damn right," I responded. "I'm not looking at those ugly things until September. They've upset my sensibilities long enough. Why do you still want to keep them around? Can't you see they're dead."
Only, I couldn't do it. Not only could I not do it, but when I tended to the garden while Chris was away, I watered the two hanging baskets as well. Every evening I looked at them, shook my head in disbelief, and wondered why we still had them, why we'd allowed them to bring down the appearance of our deck for so many weeks. What was so important about these two damn hanging baskets?
After my run this morning, I looked at them again, still sitting on the overturned pots next to the fence on the side of our back deck--uglier than ever, waiting for someone to put them out of my misery. But I'm afraid that won't be me, because I can't do it. Every time I look at them, I see Chris through the kitchen window, his back to me, sorting the dead from the live, carefully clipping here and there.
At some point, they ceased being flower baskets and became extensions of Chris, surrogates while he was away on vacation. And every time I was near them, I felt him, even though he was hundreds of miles away. I felt the care and attention he'd put into them, the love, really, and getting rid of them would have felt like getting rid of him, which I could no more do than...