The day I left for college, she gave me two gifts. That was thirty-five years ago.
The first was a Granny Square afghan she’d spent the entire summer crocheting from scraps of yarn. It kept me warm on winter nights in a drafty dormitory then and holds a place of honor on the sofa in my sunny home office even today. The second gift was a cutting from a grape ivy plant she’d had for years. She must have thought I’d need a little greenery for my dorm room. The cutting in the tiny terracotta pot sat on the windowsill growing full and strong that year. The next year, it moved with me to my first apartment. When I married it continued to grow (and move) with me from house to house. There have been a couple of close calls and one near death experience for the plant in three decades. The plant that began as a single tiny cutting has lived in eight different houses.
A couple of years ago I decided that it was time to pass parts of the plant down to other family members in the form of little slips. It was time to cut it back and give it new potting soil anyway since it had become leggy and overgrown. When my daughter left for her first year of college, a tiny part of the plant went along with her to her dorm room. My siblings and cousins got their own, too. It makes me happy to see the plants growing and thriving in the homes of other people. I like to think it would make my grandmother happy to know that something she had nurtured was still being nurtured by others.
It is January in Minnesota. The time of year that is too cold and too dark for my taste. The snow squeaks beneath my boots as I trudge down our long driveway to get the mail. I long for the first signs of spring even though logic dictates that nobody with any sense should be thinking of such things just two weeks into the new year up here in the North.
The plant sits on a shelf next to the fireplace. Today I noticed that it is putting out new shoots, reaching toward the light from the window directly above it. It reminds me that even when the whole world seems to be hibernating, important things, like growth, are happening. Right below the surface. Right under our noses.
This is true for old plants with very deep roots. And some people, too.