More Than a Frequent Flyer
She sits next to me in the upstairs bedroom I call my garret — a home office where I often spend time writing. She positively beams when the sun swings over the roof line and begins its descent in the western sky; quiet and content in the warmth that streams through the linen-like curtains someone else hung in the single window long before I settled here. The old girl looks thirsty; perhaps I’ll give her a drink tomorrow.
Lacy, an asparagus fern we think, is going on 50+ years. She has survived two moves in Dallas, Texas, and one to the college town of Columbia, Missouri for a while, before coming back again to Big D, her hometown. She made her way out to New York City, when my folks lived on Roosevelt Island in the middle of the East River, right under the Queensboro Bridge. I heard a while back that the span from Queens to Manhattan, also known as the 59th Street Bridge, has been named after the 105th Mayor of New York, Ed Koch, who inherited a tarnished jewel in the late ’70s before passing the baton 11 years later, leaving a teensy little more of a shine on New York, New York, but hardly a gleam. That would come later, with the restoration of the Theater District, when Rudy Giuliani — I know, it’s so weird that we all once called him “America’s Mayor,” isn’t it? — started closing down the seedy porn parlors on 42nd Street, and inviting GAP and the M&M’s Store to Times Square. And way before Covid Times decimated what was left to love about NYC.
Back to the aging fern, and her journey to my heart.
When Lacy ended up at Mom’s place in New York, she was a little worse for wear. She drooped in a hanging pot back then, missing quite a few of her formerly delicate fronds. My Daddy, who toiled in the travel business for most of his career — TWA, Pan Am, Ford International (a short-lived detour), the Commonwealth of the Bahamas — had been invited on what is known as a “fam trip.” In this case he and Mom were to set sail from the old Manhattan Cruise Terminal — Piers 88, 90, 92 and 94 on the Hudson River, between 46th and West 54th Streets — with a party of travel agents and other industry types, in order to “familiarize” them with the cruise company, its accommodations and routes, and the beautiful breezes of its destination, the Bahama Islands.
Back in the day, departing on a cruise was some big deal. Passengers embarking from Manhattan received a celebratory sendoff. Everyone gathered at the rails on multiple decks, and as the ship weighed anchor to begin its journey, the captain gave the signal — one long blast of the ship’s horn, followed by three short blasts — letting all know that the ship was backing away from the dock, and in sailing parlance, the cruise was underway. Of course, things have changed since my folks took that fam trip. What with the transformation of the industry over the years from the stately ocean liners to the massive sea-going cities that are afloat today, and a vacation destination so changed by a million viruses, including the Covid, I have no idea if these former beauties of the sea still depart with such fanfare. Perhaps they just slink away, so all of the maladies that could befall them can’t catch up. But when Mom and Dad set sail, I’m told it was something to behold.
I know — I seem to be off-track, but I’m not, I promise. My parentals enjoyed themselves immensely, and after two weeks of food and fun (not so much food and fun on a cruise these days contaminated with norovirus, or Covid-19, I’m told), they sailed on back into New York harbor, and attempted to disembark, headed for home.
But not so fast there! What’s that you’re holding in your left hand? Is that a hanging basket of some sort? A plant that you picked up in the islands? Not allowed on American soil! No can do, Missy!
My Mom attempted to explain that the plant — yes, this was Lacy — was actually an American, born and bred. And although she didn’t have a passport, Mom would vouch for her. She’d just been in ill health the past few months, so we decided to take her on the cruise. And she didn’t leave the cabin, except to take the air on occasion on our stateroom balcony. We promise!
The authorities were having none of that, of course. The official determined that Mom wasn’t going to give up Lacy voluntarily, so he reached around to snag the plant from her arm.
“Wait a second!” my Daddy interjected, with a half-smile on his face. “Wait right here! I have an idea.”
He dashed off to the ship’s gift shop, where a gallery of 5x7 prints was showcased in the store window. He purchased one of these gems, and got on back to the end of the ship’s ramp, where my Mom and Lacy waited with a quite disgruntled U.S. Agricultural Inspector.
“Look!” Daddy proudly produced the glossy snap. It featured him and Mom, in their cruise-wear finery, waving to those below as the ship pulled away from its berth two weeks prior to this encounter. Lacy was hanging from Mom’s left hand.
“And you swear this plant is from New York, and it never left your cabin, except to disembark just now?
“Yes, officer. I promise.” Actually, I have no idea what Mom called him, but it must have been official enough to let my folks — Lacy in tow — descend from the gangplank and touch down on American soil once more.
So, yes. Lacy stayed with Mom and Dad for quite a few more years. And she outgrew her hanging basket, then the clay pot she lived in for awhile, then the even larger ceramic pot I eventually transplanted her into when she came into my care. I even divided her once, and took part of Lacy to San Francisco to live with my sister. Lacy II enjoys her new digs out there. The temperate climate and fog-soaked summers, I’m told, are an asparagus fern’s dream.
Lacy now occupies a new resin pot, where I situated her before our move Down South. She was out on the screened-in porch for the first two months we were here, but with the advent of chillier weather I took her inside, where she now sits to the left of me, soaking up the hazy sunlight that comes through the window of my writing perch and inhaling the evening breezes, which delight me as well.
I guess you could say my Mom and Dad were a tad eccentric. And I guess I am, too. But I’d bet you’d help out a family member in peril. And she’s looking mighty thirsty. Guess I’ll grab her that drink right now.