“Don’t Worry, Dear!”
I’m only going to the garden center.
By Martine Caselli
Art by Mary T. Ey
I categorically deny all allegations made against me concerning overspending at the garden center. Have I occasionally been too enthusiastic with my purchases? Perhaps. Does that, however, constitute a pattern of unreliability? Of course not. Beneath my enthusiasm I remain, as always, a responsible person, even in the spring. Even at the garden center.
It is my husband who has made these monstrous allegations, although never directly.
For example, “Why don’t you take my car?” he’ll ask as I’m getting ready to go. His car. His tiny, little car. I know what’s really behind this and so does he. You can’t bring home shrubs in a car that size. And a tree, well, forget it. I’m only going to the garden center for a cell pack of sweet basil, but I do like to keep my options open. But saying so would only stir of unnecessary clouds of suspicion.
“Thanks, but mine needs guessing up, anyway,” I answer with studied casualness.
I am almost out the door, pocketbook on shoulder, hand on the knob.
He says, “And remember now—we agreed—the charge cards are just for emergencies and necessities . . . “ His voice trails off.
Honestly, why is this man so nervous? I am not arguing against the basic good sense of this kind of thinking. Of course, in spirit this agreement would also curtail the casual use of the checkbook, but this has never actually been stated.
“Not to worry!” I respond brightly. “I only need those sweet basil seedlings I mentioned.” A quick kiss and I am gone.
And then, the garden center at last. I have a choice at the gate—a small plastic baskets quite large enough for those sweet basil seedlings I came for, or an oversized red wagon. I choose the wagon without hesitation, and I’m off. Cruising down the rows of two-gallon containers and balled-&-burlapped specimens, I become intoxicated by the warmth of the springtime sunshine and the smell of fertilizer. How else can I explain all the plants I keep putting in the wagon “just to think about?”
Before too long, the wagon is so full I need both hands to pull it. Leaving it near the exit, I get another one, which rattles along emptily behind me—until with a sharp intake of breath, I come upon climbing hydrangeas. I couldn’t find climbing hydrangeas anywhere last year. It is torture narrowing it down to just three of them. A gorgeous deep-purple lilac and one or two absolutely exquisite bleeding heart plants later (How has so much time passed?), I finally come upon the herbs and the sweet basil seedlings. I have to carry them, there is no more room in the wagons.
Back near the exit, seedlings in hand, I turned to face the two overly full wagons beside me. Oh, that terrible moment. Everything in them is a treasure. All of it absolutely necessary.
“Necessary?” intones the imagined face of my mate which materializes ghost-like within the branches of the lilac, then disappears. I sigh, crestfallen at what I know I must do. The very picture of pathos, I leave with the basil seedlings and one climbing hydrangea, having paid by check.
The ride home is long enough for a satisfying wallow in self-pity . . . and for me to return to my senses. Casting my good-natured husband as Ming the Merciless never works for long. And although it’s desperately inconvenient to admit at the present moment, he happens to be right about not buying a carload of shrubbery just now. There’s the matter of the decrepit honeysuckle-covered fence we need to replace this spring; a time-consuming job complicated considerably by my edict that not a single honeysuckle twig be harmed in the process. We also have a rotting deck to rebuild, my fault entirely because I tend to locate my mini-container vegetable garden on it each yea. Come to think of it, my husband has never complained about this offense against proper home maintenance, although he has certainly noticed and it is his nature to be neat and careful. For the sake of my tomatoes and my happiness, he has looked the other way, quietly enduring ten soggy years of advancing rot. Ruefully, I have to acknowledge the man’s intrepid character in the face of the commotion I bring into his life. With a rush of affection, I realize I knew that everything I need to make me happy in the garden is already there.
I wave cheerfully to my husband as I pull up to the house. One look at my radiant expression and his brow knits with concern. Poor guy, he really has to learn to relax. I believe he is even glancing down the street to see if there is a delivery truck following me. I kiss him big and tell him I love him. I tell him the best part of any trip is coming back home. I tell him the hydrangea in the backseat is for his birthday.
“My birthday was last month,” he says, laughing. “Actually, it’s surprising you only bought one.”
“Really?” I answer, mustering an expression of pure innocence. “Well, I’m not one to lose my head at the garden center.”
This story is from GreenPrints #41, Spring, 2000.
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