I’m no longer so sure about that generally accepted medical premise that pets are good for your health and well-being.
This beauty of a Christmas Cactus started out in 2004 as a rescue: three sprigs with four buds in a little green plastic pot full of dry, cracked dirt. I never intended to adopt it; it was destined to be wrapped in bubble wrap and mailed to New York City, where my daughter Elizabeth had just moved into a dorm room at Hunter College.
Though Hunter is part of the (then) 250,000 student City University of New York (CUNY) system, my little girl looked pretty lonely as we walked away and left her there to begin what would be one of her many solo adventures.
Or maybe I was the one who looked lonely.
Anyway, there was a long narrow window ledge along one whole end of Elizabeth’s room. The window was up pretty high and looked out upon THE CITY, including The Empire State Building, Bellevue Hospital and a smidgen of the East River. A lot of view, but one that included no one she knew. She made the comment that “a little plant would be nice.”
I am not a plant person, and had no real thought of sending a plant to NY until that pathetic little sprig with the hopeful buds caught my eye. I put it in my kitchen in a north facing window; all the buds fell off without blooming. There it sat for several years, the only living plant in the house of a “brown thumber.” No trip to a New York City window ledge.
Though it did not bloom, it did grow a little. I re-potted it a couple of times over the years, chiding myself about wasting the effort on such a hopeless specimen. Then about five years ago, I temporarily moved it to my entry hall for some reason or another. It loved that spot, and thanked me that November with several lovely blossoms.
Over next year, and for the four following, it turned into a plant that filled a 14 inch diameter pot, stood to a height of 18-20 inches, with a circumference of about 80 inches…and for four years in a row it bloomed from late October until after Valentine’s day.
I sent photos to Facebook, I texted photos to friends. This year, I sent a group text to my sisters as soon as I spied this year’s crop of blooms beginning to dot the tips of the cactus with pink. When the first bloom opened, it was duly photographed and shared.
One afternoon last week, as I sat on the front porch tending to LadyCat, my outdoor stray, some form of disaster struck. I can only imagine what may have happened, but I suspect that one of my jealous indoor cats was trying to keep an eye on me and their outdoor competition. She (they are both females) either stepped into the plant or fell into it from atop her piano perch, while trying to watch me through the sidelight window at the front door.
Fully 25% of the plant, maybe even one-third, lay on the floor in several pieces when I returned to the house. I lost my breath, I felt nauseated, and, I’m not gonna’ lie, I cried.
Both Lillith and Busty stared at me as I shouted, ” I didn’t throw you out when you shredded my dining room chairs; I’ve gotten over the ruined leather footstool in the den; I’ve turned a blind eye when you sharpened claws on rugs instead of using the half-dozen “cat scratch” devices in the house. But this time, you’ve gone too far!”
I swacked my cane onto the floor for further emphasis, but it was an empty gesture. In fact, it was an empty room…the evil little darlings had already bailed.
No one confessed, though my husband commented on how they both watched me closely from afar, no doubt worrying that I’d be able to guess the guilty party’s identity.
I’m pretty much “over it” now. After all, there are a lot of really serious problems confronting us these days. And besides, I don’t have to worry about Christmas shopping this year, because I’ll be sharing my Christmas Cactus itself, rather that just its picture.