The big Christmas holiday is over. Although my little family Christmas gathering is yet to come this week – kids had lots of families to visit. The holiday season has brought friends and family together in lots of ways –
- a family gathering with my siblings and their families with food and games,
- a brunch with my husbands brother – a quiet talk of life, aging and where we find ourselves in our 60’s
- a cookie baking with a dear friend and our adult kids
- a yoga class and a yoga private session to just stretch out from the craziness of the year
- chatting with strangers who become causal friends at the local bar and grill
So many people! A treat I do not take for granted but as I waited for breakfast to cook this morning I stood by an old friend who has been with me in one way or another since I was little. A friend who does not talk but has traveled with me to each home I have created during these past 64 years.
First this friend was at my Grandfather’s home. It was old then. Yes – it! My friend is a plant. I was a young girl who checked on this plant each time we visited my family farm. It was on a plant stand in the dinning room. It draped down with pink flowering blooms each Christmas.
At some point my Mother took a slip from this cactus and brought it home. We watched this plant grow over the years growing just as we did. As we turned tall and aged it grew wide and showed its age through developing woody branches but as always it too bloomed each Christmas. This plant continues to grow at my brothers home now that Mom is no longer with us. It is struggling with age since it must be well over 55 years old.
In family tradition I also took a slip from this old plant when I left for college. I was 18 and just beginning to understand my need and love of plants and gardens. This little slip of a plant has followed me through college, living outside of Chicago, a move to Minneapolis, back into Iowa and a return to Minneapolis to settle and raise a family.
Now she sits in the bay window looking out over the back garden. She fills the window making it hard to have other plants beside her. She faithfully blooms each winter with pink flowers. They begin to bloom slowly but over a few weeks she is in full bloom with pink sparkling all around her. She often will continue her show until mid March when she settles down for a long summer rest.
This fall I watched her carefully but there was no sign of blooms. Her long green arms reached out in all directions. Her base branches having turned brown, like tree bark, from age. She is now about 46 years old – for a house plant that is a long life. I guess it is ok for her to take a year off from blooming.
This morning I gathered my tea cup and walked over to view the frozen garden from the
bay window with my friend, the Christmas cactus. I was scanning the small branches in the yard that had fallen during the Christmas wind and rain. I noticed the melt of the 9 inches of snow now down to a few inches of crusty ice. It was then that my eyes looked lower and found in front of me the first blooms of this years cycle. She was slow in forming buds but there they were – light little pink buds just beginning to open up and shine.
There was her shy, quiet smile. It was as if she was letting me know she too had felt the stress of the hard year. She too was moving slow but had not given up. The light each day is lengthening, spring will come over time and we will see a better day. She continues to bloom.
Each generation of this plant has experienced so much – the original plant must have joined our family when my mother was young – some 97 years ago. My Mother was born in 1919. I do not know if the ancestors of my Christmas cactus were around then but knowing my family of farmers and gardeners my guess is yes. My guess is my grandfather’s plant came from a slip in someone else’s collection of plants long before my mother was born.
Friends – they travel with us over time, they hold memories with us, and they bring us a smile when things feel dark or heavy. It is good to know she is there to stand by when I need a quick smile or want to take a walk down memory lane.