Growth

by Autumn Hutson

During the spring of 2015, I watched my dad walk into our little townhouse holding a houseplant. “Here,” he said, handing it over to me. “I got this for you. Take care of it.”

It was a nice surprise since I hadn’t even asked for something like this. My dad told me that eventually we’d have to repot it so the roots wouldn’t rot, and he told me how his late mother used to take care their plants when he was a child.

“You gotta spray the leaves!” he mimicked the sound of a spray bottle with a smile. I smiled back.

“I have to name it,” I said as I examined my gift.

“Name it?”

“Yea, of course!”

My dad made a face as if to ask, why would you name a houseplant? Later that day I gave the plant a name (and a gender presumably) that I found sweet and endearing. It sounded like a wise old woman’s name. Eileen and I have been friends ever since.

The way plants are treated reminded me of how I felt growing up. I was in a military family: as soon as we settled down in fresh soil, we’d have to be uprooted again. It was hard to leave people behind and it felt like I never really belonged anywhere. But each new place had its effect on me, made me grow. Everything had sentimental value, everything was important. I couldn’t throw anything away because they held memories from the old soil I once called home.

Eileen had a home with me now, so I had to take care of her. She didn’t start to grow until we moved to a bigger house that summer. When her arms stretched down the length of my bookshelf, my dad told me, “You’ll have to clip it right here…that way you can plant that new piece and grow a new one!”

I jokingly protested but I was serious about not wanting to cut any part of Eileen away. I knew how that felt, especially when you were doing so well. Eventually I did have to clip an entire arm off because her leaves were beginning to die. Throwing old parts away would be good for us both. “Sorry.” I whispered and winced as I cut through the thick stem.

I kept track of Eileen’s growth throughout the years, and it’s been exponential. But I forgot that she was watching me grow, too, silently perched atop the bookshelf of my room. She was taking care of me. I romanticize the past, but I know that it’s good to cut yourself away from it so that you can evolve. Eileen’s taught me a thing or two about growth. Endings, no matter how painful, mark a new beginning. Now I have a little version of Eileen in a pot below her, growing slowly and quietly. The day I told my dad that it was her son, he scoffed. I am too sentimental.

Autumn Janelle Hutson is an overindulger in her imagination and a keeper of expectations that most would deem unrealistic and fantastical. This is what makes her a great writer. She has work published in Disquiet Arts and 805 Lit + Art.

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