The Last Mile or…850 Metres to School

I am a survivor of my childhood.  With all the helmets, and helicopter parenting going on nowadays, it’s a wonder that I am still alive to share any stories of my childhood.  Perhaps I am one of the lucky survivors.  Today I will share with you the terrifying tale of a specific part of my childhood.  Luckily, no child in this day and age in North America, will have to survive this kind of ordeal.

My mother had (and has) a green thumb.  No, not gangrene.  For those of you unfamiliar with this term, it means she can take any flower or plant (dead or alive) and make it blossom and grow.  When we moved into our new “forever home”, my mother decided that it would be wonderful to have dahlias in front of our house.  My mother loved them.  I dreaded them.  Why?  They were the perfect hiding spot for my sworn insect enemy…the grasshopper.  Foliage and insects were to be my yearly springtime horror story.

IMG_3080

As a child who had just moved into a new neighbourhood, there were already many challenges that I had to deal with.  New school.  New friends (or lack thereof).  New teachers.  Every spring I would walk out my front door, look to my right and see the tall, green, leafy dahlias with their perky red flowers; they were taunting me.  They knew they harboured my repulsive flying insect enemies.  I would take a deep breath and prepare myself for the attack.  My mother would be behind me in the doorway yelling at me to hurry up so I wouldn’t be late for school.  What did she know.  There was going to be a volley of insects flying at my head ready to blind me with every step.  It would take precision and trickery to fool my flying enemies.  My plan of action:  One step forward and two steps back.  I remember taking one step forward and, as I was taking my “two steps back”, IT would fly out of the dahlia bush.  Sure, this took about 5 to 9 minutes to accomplish my trek, but my head would not be permanently scarred by grasshopper kamikaze.  Mission accomplished.

IMG_3081

Oh, the trials and tribulations of walking to school.  Directions were not an issue.  All I had to do was turn right out of my driveway and keep walking until I got to school.  No problem there.  However, there were some challenges I experienced along the way.  Here are but a few:

  • RABID DOG:  I would be walking to school and see a dog.  It was a ferocious dog.  There was no owner walking with that dog.  Its teeth were bared and ready to sink its jaws into my neck and rip me apart.  (Ok, I have a flare for the dramatic.)
    • Usually, I would see the dog and cross the street.  If, perchance, it decided to follow me, I would point my index finger at it and yell loudly, “Go home!” as my mother had taught me to do.  Not sure why it understood me, but it would usually just meander away.
  • UNEVEN SIDEWALK:  I was one of the lucky (unlucky?) kids who didn’t have to eat lunch at school.  I could go home for lunch!  Ok, I’ll be honest, I loved coming home for a yummy hot meal.  However, as attention spans go, I was always a dreamer and it took me longer to get home than most obedient children.  By the time I got home, my mother was fuming and force-feeding me so that I would get back on time.  On parent teacher interview day, I was lectured and pre-reprimanded about being home on time for lunch.  That day I ran home and totally missed seeing the lump of dirt that was suddenly on the sidewalk and WHAM!  Face first into the lovely cement sidewalk.  I made it home on time!  I also made it back to school on time too.  Kudos to me!  My unpopularity became even more pronounced with the appearance of a bandage across my nose.IMG_3082
  • STRANGERS IN CARS:  I remember being lectured about not talking to strangers.  I got in big “doo-doo-ka-ka” when a strange lady in a car stopped beside me as I was walking to school.  Why?  Apparently “stranger lady” was my aunt’s friend coming to visit her and she was trying to ask me for directions.  (Note:  never ask me for directions.  I really have no idea where places are, what streets are called, and basically, I usually don’t know where I am.  There.  You’ve been told.)
  • BULLIES:  When my brother was old enough to attend the same school, he decided that he wanted to tell the local bully off.  My sister job was to protect my younger brother.  One day, it got so bad that Mini-bully-boy picked up a big, gargantuan rock and threw it high up in the air to annihilate my baby bro.  What happened?  I stepped in to block the rock and it landed ungracefully on my big toe.  What happened next?  I limped for several weeks.  My toe nail fell off after turning completely blue / purple / green / yellow.  Oh the rainbow of pain!

Remarkable isn’t it.  I walked through snow, wind, sleet, thunderstorms, humidity, and grasshopper skies.  I walked all the way to school.  Not once, but twice a day!  Oh sure, I had an umbrella.  I had winter boots.  I had a winter coat.  I also walked the last mile…or 850 metres.  Uphill.  Both ways.  And I survived.

How to Save a Drowning Orchid

I have never been very good with flowers. I even managed to kill a harmless, small “cannot kill” Ikea, cactus.  That takes quite a special kind of Killer talent. After ridding my house of any beautiful, living blossom, I actually felt relieved. I knew that there would be no little white bugs flitting about my house. No fear of anything being knocked over. No need to wonder if I had watered (or drowned) any plants. And surprisingly, my family did not die from lack of flora breath in the air. All was well.

Fastforward 10 years.  We had just completed a much dreamed about kitchen renovation.  Being an avid fan of makeover shows, I realized there was always a stunning arrangement of fresh flowers to accent and complete the transformation.   After years of plant freedom I decided that I was older and wiser and would somehow miraculously inherit Mother Nature’s whimsical and illustrious talents.  Whilst grocery shopping one day, I saw a magnificent white orchid that asked, nay, demanded: “TAKE ME TO YOUR LEADER.”   Nope.  Overdramatizing (a little).  It looked really bright and happy and cheerful and appeared to say (if flowers could speak) “I’m yours.  Take me home”.  I was happy.  My new flowerage (?) was happy.  My newfound blossoms would reign over my new regal domain.

My orchid was astounding! I was amazed at the elegance and beauty of each petal and how it seemed to lord over my new dream room. What started as five blooms became six blooms and then seven and then eight. Amazing too, that the Curse of the Serial Plant Killer did not strike. For weeks I ensured that I followed the instructions: just a little warm water daily. I did well. Always just enough. And it always stood there beautiful and proud.

One day, while rushing about, I realized that my majestic orchid looked…well…droopy. When was the last time I had watered it? Two days? Three days?  How did I forget to add that ounce of warm water?  To compensate for my lack of care, I dispensed a whole waterfall of life giving liquid. That would do the trick. That decision was the beginning of the end. What was once beautiful, elegant, sturdy flowers became serial floral demise.  Whole blossoms began dropping. One at first, then two at a time. It was over. Serial Plant Killer struck again. Egad! “Waaaahhhhhh!!” I screamed out to the sky: “HOW DO YOU SAVE A DROWNING ORCHID?!” That death sentence actually made me suddenly ponder the similarities between plant life and human life.

How do you save a drowning orchid? How do you save a person that is drowning in fear or unhappiness and is having kneejerk reactions to life? How do you get them to search for that lifeline that will drag them out of their drowning fear or anger or hurt or regret that they feel? Oftentimes we forget about those around us and when we finally remember them we give a “quick fix” through gifts of sorts and then move on believing everything will be fine.

Love, like water, needs to be given daily. It doesn’t need to come showering down like a big party then leave you feeling hung over and alone for days after that. A nice, kind, gentle, daily dose is what keeps true love on the right path.

True love is about friendship, kindness, and understanding. It is always there, like a slow trickle of water that will never leave you feeling dried out or thirsting for love from others.

My dear orchid, I am sorry that I let you down as I now know that I let myself down. Tough lesson, but a lesson well learned. I need to take time to love myself. Don’t love myself only on some days and not others. I am always worthy of love and by loving myself and not expecting it from others, I will never thirst for it or hope that I am worthy to receive it. My water trough of love will always be full. And by having great love for myself, my love for others will be stronger and the love I receive will be even more appreciated.

Rest in peace, my dear orchid. Lesson learned.