Ivy

I don’t have much of a green thumb, though my family history and childhood would have you assuming the opposite. My mother is the one who is great with plants, and she, along with my dad, created a beautiful home for both me and their greener babies over the last couple of decades. I remember the way our backyard used to be just seemingly random gatherings of plants who held potential that only people blessed with green thumbs could see. Otherwise, to normal-thumbed ol’ me, they were simply: plant, dirt dirt dirt, plant, potted plant, grass, cement, plant, dirt dirt dirt. However, as I grew, so did the plants. And now that I’ve grown enough to uproot myself and plant my roots into a new home and newly married life, I’m finally appreciating the oasis they’ve created. Little did my not-so-special thumb and I know, they would become more than just plants.

Of course, the entrance to our family home is lined with a welcome wagon of all sorts of flora, foliage, and some friendly figures. Our front door has slim windows on either side. On the floor below one of the windows, sits a potted, based on my experience, what I believe to be- some kind of an ivy type plant, growing up toward the sunlight coming from the window. It’s just always been there. It’s one of the plants that somehow in a way has lived in this home just as long as I have. It’s the type of plant that I’m sure my mom would say is easy to keep alive, but wouldn’t fare well with me. So, we’ve just continued to live here in the home, together- the ivy type plant and I. Without really acknowledging each other or crossing paths, we coexisted. I grew, the ivy grew. Both growing vertically, never intersecting paths, practically parallel. Little Ivy and I never really meant much to each other. Until now. It’s funny how, though we might never notice it, things don’t just grow with us, but everything ultimately grows into place. 

Some say that what defines you as a person is how you treat other people. Some say what really matters is what we choose to do even when there’s no one around. I’ll let you decide. Before going into this story, something you’ll need to know about me and my family is a tradition within the culture of our home. If you’re a guest and leaving, we’re walking you out. And we’re not just walking you to the door. We walk you to, then down, our driveway. Social dynamic permit, we might just be walking you to your car. Sometimes we’ll bring our dog out with us too. We do this not only to be sure you get in your car safely, but to enjoy every possible moment we can with you. We don’t even go inside until you turn the corner, leaving our little cul de sac, whenever we lose visual. Because we live right at the end of our little court, watching people leave down the street from our driveway is easy. We like to wave goodbye as you turn the perpendicular street. If you were to look out your car window while turning, you’d see us standing there waving until we disappear as you drive away. Perhaps that way, the last time you see us wouldn’t just be in your rear view mirror, your last view of us would be right by your side. Not in your past, but “here” for you. Even within our family, when someone leaves for work or to the store- we all walk each other out to say goodbye, and as always,  we wave, as we watch each other turn the corner. “Moms leaving for work now, let’s walk her out”, is a statement that rings in my mind like a song I’ve heard all my life. When I started working, it was “Mom! Your daughter’s leaving now!”, as my dad would always be the first one out the door. And mind you, I’m the one going to work. By growing up with these practices and observing my family do them with any welcomed guest, without realizing it, I adapted them to my own life, in my own way, with my own guests.

My high school boyfriend and I first started dating when we were 16. A bit young, but old enough to drive. Ever efficient and always prepared, he got his driver’s license first and before most other people our age at the time. Being the gentleman he is, he was always there to pick me up and take me right home before it got too late. He would pick me up with the easily sweetest hello, and drop me off with a roughly bitter-sweet goodbye. Over and over again. 

Throughout the final years of high school, nursing school, clinicals, life events, and job schedules, the routines were ever changing and the frequency of our seeing one another wasn’t always guaranteed. Whenever he would pick me up, I would run to the front door with almost as much speed as my barking dog. I definitely had a much happier demeanor about the fact that there was a visitor at the door that my dog did, but our levels of excitement matched once my dog realized he was at the door. The pick ups were the best. But then there were the evenings that, on the way back to my home to drop me off, you could feel a shift in the air because I would realize we don’t actually know when we might see each other again. In the end, we always figured it out and made it work even if it was for an hour or two, but that feeling was always a tough one. He’d talk me through my little slump at just the right moment so by the time we arrived at my home we would be able to say a heartfelt and hopeful goodbye. 

Scene: at the front door of my family home. Just after saying our goodbyes. I would open the front door to see him off like we do with everyone. However, usually because it’s later in the evening, cold and dark outside, he wouldn’t want me standing out there alone watching him leave. The compromise was that I would watch him leave through the little window on the side of the door. And boy would I. If you were to watch me from inside the house, I probably looked like a puppy pressed against the window when they heard someone outside. Ironically, the only soul to ever witness me do this was my puppy. More often than not, my boyfriend would have to close the door for me because I just didn’t have the heart to do it. He’d gently pull it shut. Me inside, him outside. From the other side of the door, I would hear him standing there waiting to be sure I’m safe inside and telling me to be sure that I “Lock it!” so I would. In the same breath, I would scurry on over to the window to try to make the most of this different type of goodbye than I’m used to. I would always just find him standing there, ensuring all was safe. That’s when he would turn to the window, knowing just where to find me, and give me another wave goodbye. Next, he’d walk to his car, open the door, give me one last wave goodbye, and get in. The headlights would turn on, the car would start moving. He’d drive in a small semi-circle past my house at the end of the cul de sac before driving away. I was always sure to wave right when he did, but always wondered if he was waving too. Then I’d go from watching white headlights to red taillights. Brake lights on at the stop sign, left-turn signal on, turn, and drive away. The moment his taillights disappeared behind the houses, I would blink. I’d close my eyes for the split second, and accept that when I open them, he wouldn’t be there anymore. I was no longer looking at him, I was looking forward to seeing him. 

The window at which this goodbye routine would take place is the very window below which my Ivy acquaintance sat. Some nights, I would accidentally nudge the pot, some days I simply had no idea it was there and we’d stay out of each other’s way. For ten years, my then-boyfriend and I did this goodbye dance. I spent a decade using that window to make the most out of every moment that I could. It was second nature, a reflex yet always full of conscious intention. Over time, as our relationship grew, so did Ivy. 

Years passed, and we got engaged. Several months later, we found what would be our future home together. However, I didn’t plan to move in until after we were married, so our goodbye routine continued on. However, it became a little different than before. Instead of wondering when the next time we would see each other would be, the thought was simply of how in a matter of months, we wouldn’t have to have this little routine at all. When we would go home, we would do so together or to one another.

As nature would have it, in the final months of our engagement, whilst pressed up against my usual window, I found it to be growingly difficult to do so. Yes, it could have been because I am generally not great with change and I would miss my home and my family, but there was another reason it was getting harder and harder to stand at my window. My little Ivy friend, the one that I sublet this little corner of our home with, grew so much over our years within the same walls that she was beginning to cover the portion of the window right where I peeked out. As if she knew it was time to move on, was supporting me in doing so, and being the perfect example that sometimes it takes time for things to grow into place- she grew up and into my spot at the window. But that’s alright, she can have it. I don’t need it anymore.

I don’t have that old window anymore, but I do have a new home. I don’t have that routine anymore, but I do have a new life. I don’t have to say goodbye to my boyfriend anymore, but I do get to say good morning to my husband. 

Now, Ivy is the one pressed against the window. Perhaps she’s waiting for me to come home, which I always will, but how interesting it is to be on the other side of the window. Speaking of which, let me end with one more story. The last time I went back home to my family, I finally asked my mom just want kind of plant Ivy is. Turns out, all this time, my friend Ivy – is a fortune plant. Somehow, it feels like I knew some kind of version of that all along. She may be a fortuitous Ivy, but I believe the truly fortunate one is me.

JMP

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