The Anxieties of Plant-Sitting

Carol Demick
→ BFA IL and ID 2021

This summer I stayed here in Providence for the first time, instead of going home. Because of this, I ended up being the designated plant-sitter for a couple of friends who were traveling. For me, this was a very serious responsibility.

To many people, these pops of greenery are not just decorative. Our freshman year, my roommate bought a tiny plant she named Quasimodo, after his bent stem, crooked leaves, and generally scraggly appearance. After three years of dutiful watering and good vibrations, Quasi has grown into a very respectable little tree.

I was given an aloe vera plant a few years ago, but I didn’t want to take Vera with me to school, worried she would be damaged in transit. My father, a doctor with a particularly green thumb, took care of her for the three years that I was away. This Fall, after a short visit home, I took Vera back to school with me. Every time I glance at her leaves, I see my father’s gentle hands holding the watering can that’s kept under the kitchen sink.

How could I deprive someone of memories like that? I gave each plant a place of honor on my sunniest windowsill. I watered them religiously, plucked their dead leaves, and gave them plant food every Sunday. Still, what if they all withered away? What if I killed Quasi after my roommate had spent so much time helping him grow? These anxieties plagued me, probably more than they should have.

I am happy to say that all but two of the plants (who were already ill) survived their summer with me. I was relieved when my friends took them back, but I was left with an empty windowsill. Since then, I have slowly been filling that sill with succulents, herbs, and even a replanted weed that had been suffocating my mint plant. I look forward to the rest of the school year, and the growth that we will experience together.

Illustration by the author

Carol Demick takes a lot of naps.