“Oh Jonathan, there aren’t any flowers yet!” Over the years, Martha had grown a variety of flowers, all of which had bloomed spectacularly. Yet these wisteria vines eluded her.
“Jonathan, when the nursery sold us this plant, they said it was probably almost a year old then. And we’ve had this plant for four years now.” And right now, Martha was wondering just to what extent she had nurturing abilities. Marigolds, zinnia, cosmos and sunflowers were easy enough for her. But the wisteria vines just stood there — their lack of blossoms spiting her, reminding her of exactly what else she didn’t have, what else she wasn’t nurturing and helping make grow. She wanted more, yet she felt she couldn’t even take care of a plant.
“Well, Martha, we’re just going to have to be patient some more. The nursery didn’t know where the plant came from, you know, that it sorta mysteriously just started growing there. No one knows if this plant is going to bloom soon or if it’s going to take a decade to bloom. It’s a slight chance, but it might not even bloom at all.” And for a second, he wished he hadn’t said that. Why had they brought it home in the first place? Most other people he knew would never have bothered with such an aggressive and fickle vine.
Jonathan noticed the plant at the nursery — cramped all alone in a container, with the employees wondering what to do with it when it caught Martha’s eye. “Oh I hope you won’t destroy it. I remember one of the bigger arboretums in Metropolis had wisterias. When they blossom, the abundance of flowers is spectacular,” she commented making a sales clerk squirm.
“No one’s shown an interest yet,” the sales clerk explained. “Or rather, enough interest to really devote the time to caring for it. We didn’t want it sprawling up the side of the fence and risk the fence collapsing down the years. And it takes a lot of effort and pruning to train it into the shape you want it to take. And once they’re older, they’re impossible to retrain or move, and they don’t do well with repotting. Um, yeah.”
Another sales clerk piped in. “And these plants are so much to take care of. My grandma had one of these for years. She was always checking that there wasn’t too much nitrogen, enough phosphorus, checking the soil’s PH levels, checking the water levels. And it still wouldn’t bloom for the longest time.”
“That’s okay, we’ll take it home,” Jonathan piped up. On one hand, Martha wanted a simpler lifestyle — one where people, especially children, didn’t grow up so fast and where people slowed down enough to appreciate what they had — material and non-material — in life. Yet, Jonathan had been starting to wonder if she was bored here in Smallville. He looked at his newlywed wife. Metropolis always had challenges, and Martha gracefully weathered them all. The farm also had its own types of challenges but Jonathan was astounded by how easily Martha the Metropolis girl became Martha the farmwife. So, he rationalized, if anyone could tame a stubborn plant and make it bloom, she could.
And so it was, the wisteria was theirs. From the drive home in the truck from the nursery, they were already making plans — buying the plant was an impulse decision and they didn’t have a place set up yet for it. And now here they were, suddenly needing to make arrangements to accommodate this.
Where would it go? The plant demanded a lot of sunlight, so good thing their farm was in a very sunny area, and it could go anywhere on their land. And they finally decided on the small patch that Martha had set aside as a flower garden. “I want them next to the garden entrance. Because they mean ‘welcome,’ ” Martha decided.
Also, Jonathan was already making plans for the plans support. Martha was wondering why Jonathan was thinking of building an iron fence. “Well, Martha, I have a feeling we’ll want this plant to stay with us a while. I’m choosing a wrought iron fence because it’s going to need all the support it can get,” Jonathan reassured her, steering the truck towards the home improvement store.
“Well, if all else fails, we could just buy a wisteria bouquet through Nell’s shop,” Martha said, impatiently. Jonathan frowned. Was she giving up already?
“Right, we don’t need to buy everything in our lives,” he countered, “but we’re going to ignore all the nurturing we’ve given this plant and replace it with a cut bouquet that’ll last only a short time.”
“Oh honey, it’s just that I get so frustrated. And sometimes I have doubts, about us.”
Doubts about us. And Jonathan knew exactly what else Martha was thinking about — what else they didn’t have, weren’t raising, weren’t nurturing. “But that’s okay,” he assured her. “Look, I know the doubts you’re, we’re, going through right now. But I’ve seen just how strong, caring and nurturing you’ve been. You had the wits to live all by yourself during college just fine and you always had the resolve to not party too much or do drugs and you had the caring to come to your friends when they needed your help no matter all the situations they got themselves in. Don’t you see? You’re strong and caring, not just for yourself, but for other people too. And now this plant also.”
Jonathan continued. “Yeah, we’ve got one heck of a fickle vine here. But we’re doing fine. The plant is in great shape. We’d have nothing but an overgrown mess of tangled of vines that we’d have to chop away if we hadn’t been so careful. We’ve done all the right things and now we’ve just got to believe in ourselves and trust that the plant will bloom when it wants to.”
And Martha reconsidered. “It’s just, I don’t remember ever having to be this patient . . . Except with you and your stubbornness.” Smirk.
“Hey . . . ”
“And your stubbornness, Jonathan, is why we’re not giving up on this plant.” And Martha leaned towards Jonathan to give him a hug and all Jonathan could do was give her the biggest loving smile he had in him and hug her back.
“Hey! Would you look at that? I thought it was exciting just to see the buds starting. But this, wow, this here really is something.”
He never knew a vine could produce so many flowers. He must admit that, at times, it seemed unpromising. Especially in the winter, the green leaves would fall off and all he and Martha would see was a barren vine, rapidly growing, becoming so strong that it needed to cling to the iron support.
They twined themselves across the iron fence that Jonathan built next to the entrance and a few vines had also been trained to twine around another iron support that arched over the entrance way.
And now, the past years of care and support were being rewarded and Jonathan and Martha were welcomed into the garden by clusters of sweetly fragrant clusters of light purplish-blue flowers.
“Is he feeling better yet?” Jonathan wondered.
“Well, he seems to be doing better. At least, he isn’t turning green anymore.”
“So what happened in town?”
“I don’t know.” Martha was puzzled. “We were on our way to Nell’s to pick up some flowers and I parked my car across the street. That’s when he started crying and turning green and started clutching his stomach. Then he threw up.” Martha was now mentally adding that parking spot to the list of places in town where he’d gotten sick, sicker and sickest, trying to figure out if there was a pattern.
Jonathan picked up the boy they’d found a few weeks ago. “How ya doing Clark? Hanging in there?” Clark whimpered and gave Jonathan the clingiest hug. “Whoa, that’s quite a grip you’ve got there, son. Don’t worry though. I got you,” and Jonathan braced himself to be as strong as he could be, knowing Clark wouldn’t want to let go. “Hey, you’re safe here. So you threw up huh? Let’s see if we can feed you something . . . ”
“Oh, try the peas first,” Martha called out. “It was the only thing he ate after he got sick yesterday.” Usually Clark ate anything, literally, from everything they gave him and then some more from flowers to paper and whatever else he decided was edible. But after these episodes where he got sick, he was an extremely finicky eater. And Jonathan and Martha had spent considerable effort trying tracking down what foods he would and wouldn’t eat.
“Martha, most times we bring him into town, he starts getting sick and everyone’s starting to feel sorry for him and wonder about him. Why’s he getting so sick? Where did his parents disappear off to? Why isn’t he talking yet even though he’s three years old? Even we don’t know what’s wrong with him and we’re supposed to be his parents.”
“Yes, I know this boy is the mystery. And as a mystery of course we don’t know,” Martha pointed out. “We don’t know how long he’s gonna live, what he’ll grow up to be. But, Jonathan. We love him and he’ll be ours as soon as the adoption goes through. Why shouldn’t we do our best? We’ve weathered tough times before haven’t we? We shouldn’t doubt ourselves.”
“Well, I suppose,” Jonathan reconsidered. Then turning to the boy, “What about you, Clark? What do you think? Think you can give ol’ me and Martha a try?” Clark smiled, struggled to get down from Jonathan carrying him. Clark then ran to the kitchen, got the peas out of the fridge and put them on the table. “Hey, Martha, I think you’ve figured out his favorite food.”
“My, he’s certainly getting bolder about moving about the house,” Martha commented, remembering a few weeks ago how clingy Clark was. And when Clark wasn’t clingy, he just stood or sat there staring at Jonathan or Martha as they went on doing whatever it was they were doing.
“Yeah, well . . . ” Jonathan said. “I still wish he’d talk. It’d be nice to know how he really feels about us, this place, his place here. And it’s just not that. We could help him out so much more if we knew what he was going through. It’s just frustrating not knowing.”
“I know Jonathan,” Martha agreed, somewhat. “But he is getting better at expressing himself. Let’s just trust that eventually, he’ll be able to fully express himself.”
“Clark! Don’t eat the flowers!” Clark looked at Martha, confused.
Clark was now very comfortable around the farm but still obviously remembered something very wrong. He often woke up crying and Martha and Jonathan would come into his room to comfort him. But they couldn’t get too close or his thrashing would give them bruises. After he was done crying, the boy would spend a few minutes pointing up to the sky and whimpering. When they figured he was awake enough to not thrash at them, they’d spend time to soothe him down back to sleep.
Sometimes he’d sleep well enough for the rest of the night. Other times, he’d wake again later that night. No matter, they could always count on him having a nightmare at least once a night. And last night was a particularly bad night with Clark waking up four times. It had taken Jonathan and Martha all their patience to calm Clark down all four times.
After a night like that, Martha couldn’t wait to get to work in the flower garden and she’d brought Clark with her. Except, the wisteria had just bloomed and Clark was now curious about them.
“Here,” Martha picked a cluster of flowers from the vine and brought them to the boy standing next to her. “Don’t they smell so sweet and pretty?” she asked, bringing the cluster to his nose only to see his eyes widen in more confusion.
“Well, I like the way they smell.” Martha brought the flowers to her nose to take a whiff. “Here, try.” She encouraged him bringing the bouquet to his nose again. This time he copied what she’d done — and smiled.
“You know. I think I’ll place these flowers in your room tonight. You may or may not ever go back to where you came from. But no matter what, I just want you to know, we want this to be your home and you are always welcome here.” He looked up from the bouquet, smiled, and gave her a hug. He then took the bouquet from her and went to a grassy patch in the garden to sit down and fawn over the flowers. And Martha smiled at the sight. “You know. I love you.”
“I love you?”
“That’s right. I love you.”
“I love you.”