Whisper 1.31

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Marigold grows into a beautiful teen. Sometimes, I find that I take little sneaking glances at her: she’s just so beautiful to me that it almost hurts to look at her directly.

Do all mothers feel this way? I wonder what her birth mother and father looked like. Who were they? I wish I could let them know who Marigold has become and what a smart, brave, strong, kind, talented miracle she is.

She loves to exercise. Every day, she works out. I’m saving money to buy a home gym. Of course, we’ll need someplace to put it, so I’ve also begun preparations to add on a second story.

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Of course, even miracles have quirks.

One evening, when I come home from a walk, I find Marigold serving tea to a zombie.

I rush over.

“Marigold?” I say. “It’s freezing cold out. Wouldn’t you like to take your tea inside?”

“Oh, no, Mom,” she replies. “Me and my friend here, I didn’t catch your name? We’re having a lovely time here in the moonlight. Care to join us?”

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I head inside and keep an eye on her. The tea party continues in a civilized manner, and then Marigold comes in and goes to sleep.

“Sleep well!” I tell her. “School tomorrow.”

“‘Night, Mom!”

Early the next morning, before dawn, I look out and there she is at the tea table again, in the old sweatshirt she sleeps in and just her undies–no pants, no socks, no shoes. Frost blankets the ground.

“Come inside, get dressed, eat breakfast! The school bus will be here soon, and did you do your homework?”

“Mom,” she calls back. “Everything is under control. Care to join me for a cuppa tea?”

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At ten-thirty in the morning, I think she’s already off at school, when I see her in the front room, doing her homework.

“Marigold!” I say. “What are you doing here? You’re supposed to be at school!”

“Duh! I’m doing my homework! You always say, ‘Do your homework before you go to school,’ so the plan was to do my homework and then go to school! Don’t yell at me.”

“But you missed the school bus! You’re supposed to do your homework in time to catch the school bus!”

“That’s not what you said!”

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She skips school that day and finishes her homework. She’s mad at me, I’m frustrated with her, and mostly, I’m frustrated with myself. It’s that old pattern of not having a reliable schedule coming back to bite us again. What was she doing up drinking tea with a zombie half the night? And then why did she think tea at dawn was a good idea?

I realize that with this new stage she’s at, a little older, a little more independent, a new school, I’ll have to set the boundaries clearly once again.

“OK,” I tell her later, once we’ve both calmed down and are feeling friendly toward each other again. “Here’s the deal. When you can, do your homework as soon as you get home from school. If that doesn’t work, because you’re tired or need a bath or just need to have fun, then do your best to do your homework before bed. If you absolutely can’t do that, then try to get up early enough to do it before the bus comes. Don’t miss the bus. If the bus comes, and you still haven’t done your homework, catch the bus and then finish your homework in homeroom. OK? Does that sound like a plan?”

She gets it.

“I’m sorry , Mom. I was being literal. I know that. I think I can be responsible without being a brat about it.”

I still feel badly. I know I brought a little bit of confusion on us by having been so lax when she was a little toddler. Schedules. There’s something to say for schedules.

While I reflect on this, I notice that the strange fruit I’ve been growing looks ready to pick.

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Without even finishing the weeding, I harvest the plant.

The tuberous root feels heavier than usual, and the root nodules look like a little face. Now this is something for the State Fair! Or maybe Ripley’s Believe It Or Not.

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But it seems the root nodules are not roots at all.

It is a tiny nose. A little mouth. Two eyes.

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I free it from the plant membranes, and it is a little plant baby! A boy!

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“What are you?” I ask the little baby.

“Bobobo,” he says.

“Mom, who are you talking to?” Marigold asks.

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“Mari, you’re not going to believe this,” I say. “You know how you wanted a puppy and we got Zoey, and everybody’s happy? Well. What are your thoughts about a baby brother?”

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What do we do with a plant baby? How do we care for it? Do we need to return it to somebody, like to a tree? Do we take it to the forest?

I know someone who will know the answers.

I pick up the phone.

“Shea,” I say when he answers. “How have you been?”

It is so good to hear his voice.

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Shea informs me that the baby is mine: Gardener’s Gift, it’s called. He assures me that plant babies are simple to care for. “Just give talk to him, give him lots of love, like all plants need.”

Though he tells me the baby has no special needs, I still feel nervous, caring for a little green thing, come to our lives so unexpectedly.

“I’d feel better if you were here,” I tell Shea. He agrees to visit and stay for a while. He can get here tomorrow morning!

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Earlier, I’d promised Marigold that we could go to the Fall Festival that evening. Shea said it’s good for plant babies to get outside, especially in the rain, so after supper, I put the baby in Marigold’s old stroller and we head out.

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The baby reaches for the rain drops, laughing.

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“Look, Mom!” Marigold says. “Bobobo is playing!”

“What did you call him?”

“Bobobo. That’s his name.”

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He laughs and spreads his arms to embrace the rain. I notice for the first time that he is beautiful.

Marigold gets her face painted, but the artist messes up and the flower on her cheek looks like a squished spider.

“Take that!” she yells, hammering at the gnomes that pop up on the whacking game.

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“Are you mad?” I ask her on the way home.

“Mad?” she says. “No! What for?”

“The way you were whacking those gnomes,” I say.

“Mom! That’s the game! It’s Whack-a-Gnome, not ‘Ooochy, goochy, goo-goo.'”

We laugh. When she heads up to bed, she tells me that she’s happy to have a new brother.

“Surprises are cool, Mom. Just watch and see. This is gonna be great.”

I wonder. I was an older mom when I adopted Marigold, and I counted myself lucky to still be around to see her reach her teen years. I’m hoping to see her become an adult. But I have no illusions. I’m of the age to be a grandma, and not a young grandma, either. What am I doing with this little sprout? Will I have the energy to care for him when he’s an active toddler? And who will guide him into his teen years and beyond?

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