The plants are in

The house plants are in now, our geraniums and herbs, our hibiscus and poinsettia, the Wandering Jew and the avocado. We were worried that while we were away at my granddaughter’s college a frost would have hit. We didn’t need to worry. The temperatures in Forestville stayed unseasonably warm. The flowers always go out to the porch for their summer break, and come back in for their fall and spring semesters. That is wrong: they go outside for their summer semester, and take the fall semester off. As the nights get colder and longer they may go dormant. It is all right with us. Ease up. Take a break. The geranium reading this over my shoulder just keeps growing. Merv staked it up. Now it is a geranium bush. It has grown from flower pot geranium to geranium bush.

We watched our granddaughter stride up the campus walk next to her Mom. She is taller than her Mom, Still taller than her sister. I remember the baby she used to be. She was born in spring semester, along side of research papers and theses. I remember the call from my son, after she was born. He was in and out of tears. He was worried. “Would it help if I came out?” I asked. “Yes,” he said. I was on the next plane.

I got to the hospital and nothing was wrong. Other than the hospital. Baby was doing well. Had met milestones. Other Grandmother brought cheer and books and news. Cheer not working. My son, New Dad, pacing from hospital room to nursery and back. Looking like he was seeing a car wreck, ambulance lights. Granddaughter and new mother, pining for each other. Half a block down the corridors from each other. Together of all that time and now so far apart.

I pull the other grandmother into the hall. She is a formidable woman. I am a formidable woman. “We need to spring the kids from this joint” I say to her. She agrees. We each bend down and tighten the laces on our white sneakers. We walk down the hall. We stride step in step down the hall. Elbow to elbow we march into the baby nursery, to the head nurse. I say to the nurse “Now help me out. Observation. No fever. Jaundice typical. Of course you are familiar with the papers. Breast fed babies...” The other grandmother comtimues “Your monitoring has told you…milestones reached.” We each look the nurse in the eye. We each use the look, the Crocodile Dundee bull hypnosis look, the obi -Wan Kenobi “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for” look. The grandmother in white sneakers look. We wait. “I will call the doctor” she says. We don’t move. “It’s ok” she says putting the phone down.

The other grandmother stays in the hospital to manage the liberation. I go to the apartment to make it home. I have the day to make it safe. In the rickety wooden stairwell is a geranium forgotten, long unwatered, dusty leaves. I water it.

I start cleaning at the far corner of the apartment. I pull each piece of furniture out from the wall. I dust. I wipe down the walls, the furniture backs. I wash the woodwork. I wash the windows. I pull the sheets from the bed and wash them. I flip the mattress. I air the pillows, the blankets. I damp-mop the floor. I scrub the counters. I wash the dishes and polish them and put them away.

I shop. I stop at the geranium and pull off the dead leaves. I carry granola and yogurt and blueberries and chops and potatoes and juice, lettuce and tomatoes into the clean kitchen. The afternoon sun streams through the long line of windows. I make yogurt parfaits. I salt the chops. I trim the beans and wash the potatoes in the bright light. I wash the lettuce and roll it in tea towels to crisp in the refrigerator.

I go out to the geranium. I cut off the dead flowers, the withered stalks.

The family arrives home, extricated from the institutional quicksand. Heroic grandmother, shell-shocked Dad, mother with big dark-circled eyes, baby ready to sleep…or scream…or nurse…or all of it all at once. Pillows fluffed up behind new Mom, spooning her parfait, new Dad eating. The grandmothers catch a glance and nod.

A few days later the geranium starts to bloom.

The sun is coming through the trees now. The geranium bush behind me is going to need another stake soon. The shoulders of my granddaughter are wider than her mother’s.

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