Saturday, August 01, 2015


The story is that before I was born an office colleague gave my father a Jade plant leaf. The leaf sat in a glass of water on the windowsill above the kitchen sink in Kendall Park, and by the time I was born it had sprouted a small set of hairy, white roots. On leaving Kendall Park, to accommodate our growing family, the leaf was wrapped in a wet paper towel and deposited in one of the many moving boxes. When we arrived in Rhode Island the leaf was eventually retrieved and planted in the dirt of a small clay flowerpot. Having moved several times myself I find the wet paper towel survival story to be somewhat improbable, but not outside the realm of possibility. In any case, I have very early memories of that first Jade plant in a corner of the dining room and of a second Jade leaf sitting in water above the kitchen sink. They were watered regularly and periodically repotted and they grew into glorious bonsai-style trees which outlived him and are still alive today.

In my house we have one houseplant, a Christmas cactus. It has been with us a long time. I forget if it had to travel in the moving van but if not we bought it shortly after we moved in. It sits in the original plastic pot on a narrow windowsill in our too-small kitchen and I have never repotted it, just like we have never redone the kitchen. Still, I water it regularly and it is not unhappy. In fact, it blooms quite reliably at Christmas, lending an authentic festive note to the celebrations alongside the hothouse Poinsettias and the stiffening corpse of a Pine tree.

Arvind’s Biology class has been studying Mendel and tonight his homework involved Punett diagrams. Calculating the matrix cross-products takes him only an instant, but drawing and quartering the squares is a hard, laborious task. I watch his hands as he works and outside of the nails bitten down to the quick his fingers are precisely like mine.