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Dracaena Janet Craig Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by Zorica Vukovic, Serbia Mar 12, 2004
Child & Youth Rights , Education   Short Stories
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You know that I love trees and flowers and everything, but only at their natural habitat, or at least - outdoors, in the garden. Of course, houseplants are more than welcome to my place, if they can survive. Till now, that happened only to two plants – an old cactus in Valjevo and one Dracaena Janet Craig Compacta in Belgrade, who both survived for many years.

When I was younger I was pretty optimistic, even keen about growing house plants – my mom used to get plenty of them as gifts from her students on various occasions during the school year - and I loved these plants and always tried to give them my best attention and care - but I only found myself suffering when my houseplants plans failed and they got sick and even worse – some were dying in front of my eyes. I remember how I was desperate because of my dear small lemon tree that I planted and took care myself from the seed! But some ugly bugs attacked its tiny bark when it was few years old. After that small tree died I gave up keeping house plants altogether. I gave away what was left of my pots and forgot about them. I tried to comfort myself thinking - At last, when you don’t have plants at home, you are free to travel and stay for summer and winter holidays as long as you can.

At the end, there was only that big cactus left in the house. That cool guy in the window had his history. Once upon a time, when I was working as a teacher in a very modest country school, at the beginning of the 90’s, my pupils from one class decided to make a funny gift to me at the most important holiday of March 8th – something like Mother’s day - when all female teachers get flowers and nice gifts from their pupils. That day I also got many gifts and flowers from all other classes until I finally came to them. They didn’t follow the tradition, thinking that I was unconventional enough to accept their joke, and instead of pile of presents and flowers they put just an ordinary match box at my desk. When I came into their classroom there was just small and ugly, obviously used match box in the middle on my desk. Their eyes were smiling, and they were unusually quiet, as if expecting something big to happen. I knew they are watching my reaction. As a matter of fact I thought it WAS box of matches, and I didn’t want to show my disappointment, on the contrary, I wanted to show I’d gladly accept anything they have chosen as a gift for me on that day.

“Here’s a small gift for you from our class”, someone said to me. “Oh! A box of matches! How kind of you to notice I’m forgetting stuff like that all the time. Thanks a lot, guys! Just what I needed!” I said, as I was a smoker at that time. I was going to put it in my bag with the big smile and start the lecture. “But, teacher, you haven’t opened your gift! Please, just open it!” someone said and they were all staring at me breathlessly.

So, that was it. I was opening the small box very carefully, smiling at them, but at the same time suspecting that my sweet teenagers put some big insect or something else, who knows what, inside to frighten me - and indeed it was something hairy I spotted inside.... I stopped and shouted convivially: “Hey, what is it inside? Will anyone tell me?” I was faking the authority, but smiling to show I am accepting their joke. I felt I was really expecting a big surprise, and believe it or not, it was a thrill. Totally unpredictable, yet friendly feeling. They got me!

At that moment they burst to laughter, everyone saying something different: “It’s a huge spider!”, “Go ahead, don’t be afraid!”, “Carefully, teacher, you might get hurt!”, “Very dangerous creature inside, Miss!”.

I suddenly felt I blushed and opened it quickly at once, dropping it on my desk, when small peace of tiny cactus fell out of the match box and we all laughed and laughed until some of them started to cry. I couldn’t help hugging and kissing them and telling them that it was the best performance and the most exciting gift and I ever received from my pupils and that they are the best and that – of course I even said that – I will keep it whole my life! Then some of them seriously added that it will grow normally if I plant it in a small pot with sandy soil. I did it and today it’s still alive, after almost 15 years. It’s growing peacefully and quietly in my mom’s window, and only by winter we take it to warmer place. Although one winter when we weren’t there, we couldn’t help it got slightly frozen, but nothing happened and it recovered very well. And now – it’s the only houseplant I have at my mom’s home.

Many years later, when I was one of big managers of a big software company, there were many colleagues, mainly female, but one man also, who were filling their offices with plants, growing them and sharing them with us – other mortals who didn’t have such a lovely jungle in the office. So, thanks to them I always had nice plants around, but never got too attached as their owners were taking care of them. Daily, I could catch them in moments when they were thinking no one noticed they were talking to them, watering them and doing things you’d usually do with your babies – cleaning them, turning them to better catch the light, replanting them in new pots, putting some small holders to get them straight, remove dead leaves, fertilizing, propagating them by taking small parts or new offspring, bringing to work small shelves and other staff specially for them... I could tell you complete houseplants care story I learned there, but only as a theory, because they were never allowing to us, plant-less tribe, to touch their plants not even ones they forced us to keep in our own offices.

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Zorica Vukovic

Zo belongs to a generation of average middle-aged intellectuals who grew up in a unique environment of the country known as the former Yugoslavia, which shrank in the last decade of the 20th century, divided into a few new states through civil war and finally dissolved into a union of states known as Serbia and Montenegro. She writes from her early youth, neither living of it, nor even living for it, just observing and meditating upon various issues of life and humanity. Her totemistic values are: love, creativity, ethics and the daily improvement of communications and actions on a global level.

Deb Livingston | Aug 6th, 2004
really cool story!

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