January 31, 2006

I've had this one recurring dream a few times over the last couple of years. In the dream, someone gives me a kitten. I don't particularly want a kitten, but someone has given it to me and I accept that I'm going to have to take care of it. But the kitten is very shy and hides under the couch or behind the bookshelves all the time and never makes any noise and so in the dream, I become distracted and forget to feed it or give it water for weeks at a time, and it just keeps hiding and wasting away until one day it decides it's had enough and jumps out from behind the couch and attacks me.

Obviously, in real life, this would not happen for a couple of reasons. For one thing, I know from experience that cats do not shyly hide behind the furniture when you forget to feed them. And then for another thing, I live with someone who is deathly allergic to cats, and I don't say that lightly. This summer, he stayed in the home of someone who had a cat for several days and ended up having such severe asthma attacks he was hospitalized twice in the span of a few days, the second time having passed out from asphyxiation and hit his head and I had to call 911 and ride in the ambulance and realize when I got to the hospital that I was covered in blood and realize when I got home the next day that the phone was covered in blood, too, from when I called 911, and all that crap. So anyone who knows me wouldn't be stupid enough to give me a kitten.

But really, I think what this dream is about is not kittens, but plants. Plants are like pets that don't remind you to take care of them, which is why I've always been a little bit afraid of plants. I tend to think of myself as a black thumb, but really, now that I look back on it, I've always just avoided plants. I had a cactus when I was a kid. It died, I seem to remember, from overwatering. And then I think the next time I had to take care of plants was when Kieca went to Japan for a couple of weeks and asked me to house-sit and she has a million plants, including at least a dozen of the scariest plants of all: orchids. She left very detailed instructions, though, and I think I managed not to kill them, or if I did kill them she was polite enough not to say anything (now that I think about it, either scenario seems about equally likely).

I guess Iggy is also black-thumbed, because when we moved in together, one of our friends told us she was going to buy us a plant as a housewarming present and we both got identical looks of terror on our faces. So she bought us a cactus. We've had it for almost a year now, and it's still alive, although a few weeks ago one of its lobes fell off. The rest of it looks OK, though, so I don't know if that happened because I was doing something wrong or if it was just random.

Most recently, Jen Fu gave me a little potted mint plant that pretty much ended up living out my kitten dream to a t, except that it never attacked me. I stuck it in a corner and forgot about for a week and then when I noticed it again it was mostly brown. After that, I tried to revive it with regular watering, but it never forgave that initial insult and just got sadder and sadder looking until I threw it away.

So, it was with some significant trepidation that a couple of weeks ago, I decided to actually buy a plant for the first time in my life. I saw these ferns in a magazine that you could grow on a board on the wall with no soil at all. I thought they looked pretty cool. And I read online that they were easy to care for. And I figured that it might be a little harder to forget about huge ferns hanging on the wall of my living room than a tiny pot of mint in the corner. So I bought a pair of Japanese Hybrid staghorn ferns and they arrived in the mail last week only slightly squished and Iggy helped me hang them on the wall, and I've been really good about watering them, and they're not dead yet. Keep your fingers crossed.

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