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  • Story Owner: Pamela  Eglinski
  • Story Title: Out Back in the Wallangie Bush
  • Story Created: Thursday, November 06, 2014, 3:58:00 PM
  • Chapter Author: Pamela Eglinski
  • Chapter Created: Saturday, January 10, 2015, 2:21:00 PM
  • updated: Saturday, January 10, 2015 3:43:00 PM

The Upside Down Tomato Plant is the second story in my little anthology, Mother's Red Fingernail Polish. Full anthology is available on Amazon. This is a true story about my husband. {Smile!} It first appeared in the Iowa Summer Writer's Festival anthology, 2010.

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     My husband is not a gardener. In fact, he doesn't like plants--inside or out. But this doesn't keep me from bringing them home.

     Last winter I bought a large philodendron. I set it down on the hearth and stood back to admire it. My husband held forth with his usual mantra. "Do we have to keep it in the family room? Geez, it's ugly. Can't it go outside?"

     "Honey," I say, "it's January and we live in Kansas."

     "Exactly," he replies.

     I get the point. It's another plant for my office.

     In the summer, he scouts around the outside of the house assessing the plants and wondering aloud, "can't we cut that thing back? Who planted it anyway?" I have to lie and say, "the previous owners."

     "All the more reason to take it out," he says.

                                                             ***

     So, much to my surprise my husband came home last week with one of those hanging planter gizmos, you know the kind, the one that allows you to plant your tomato upside down. They look like a green mesh cylinder with three wires and a hook at the top. Official name: Topsy-Turvey planter.

     "Tomatoes?" I ask in shock.

     "Yes. I'm tired of eating those pink cardboard things they pass off in the grocery stores. These will be homegrown."

     My eyes open wide. I want to ask if he enjoyed his martini a little early, but I don't.

     My husband is on a mission, and I'm going with him.

     He pulls a bag of potting soil out of the car along with a very small, but cute, tomato plant. It's name: Chef Jeff's. Since my brother's name is Jeff, I take this as a good omen.

     I pick up the planter and move toward the potting soil. "Hold it," he says. "we have to set up a hoist, otherwise it will be too heavy to hang." I'm thinking, ownership . . . this is good.

     He hops into the car and departs for ACE Hardware in search of materials for a hoist. I keep planting flowers in the backyard. The tune, "you say tom-ah-to, I say tom-eh-to," pops into my head.  I'm humming.

     About thirty minutes later, he returns with two feet of linked chain. He drops it on his workbench and goes into the house where he slathers himself with SP50, dons his ultra-violet-ray-stopping shirt, and returns to the garage where he steps into his tool belt. Are going to war, or planting a tomato?

     He unwraps the planter and studies the instructions. Placing the illustrated text on his workbench, he reads aloud. "First, we need to free the roots." He takes Chef Jeff by the throat and spanks the dirt from the roots, leaving good black soil all over his shoes and the garage floor. I say nothing. I need to be encouraging.

     He feeds the roots up into the planter and attaches the foam rubber pad around the exit hole. So far so good. Then he puts the plant and planter in our large red wheelbarrow.

     I wonder, couldn't we just carry it? Surely, it only weighs twelve ounces . . . max. Bite your tongue. He wheels the plant around to the back side of the house where he drilled a hook into the roof overhang. Last weekend's project.

     He hangs the Topsy-Turvy planter on the chain hoist and we begin scooping up potting soil and dumping it into the top. "Careful" he says, "not too much." I hold back on filling the planter to the brim . . . well, one more cup of dirt won't hurt it, will it? I get a scowl from my husband and stop.

     It's time to hoist the planter. We pull, but nothing happens. We pull again. Still nothing.

     "It's not working," he says, taking it off the chain and handing it to me. I try to stretch up to the hook without a hoist. But by now, the weight is considerable, and the wires are cutting into my hands. Afraid to put it down for fear of crushing the plant I scream, "My leather gardening gloves!" He's off and running. Back in seconds, he's carrying my gloves and a stepping stool.

     Now, I'm hoping our neighbors aren't watching. I imagine we look like one of those old Laurel and Hardy skits. Still holding the plant, he takes me by the elbow and helps me up the stepladder. I'm feeling regal or maybe just old and frail. I elevate the planter and jiggle the chain links into the hook. I pause for a moment, afraid to let it go. My hands are sweating. I pull away. It holds!

     But we're not done yet. It's time to water the plant. Using the slow drip method, he takes the hose and stands on the ladder. Watering from the top, he moistens all the dirt, stopping only when water runs out the bottom. This is terrific except for one thing. Mud is splashing on the side of the house. Another mess to clean up, I think. I get annoyed and then quickly realize that it's not important. What is important is that my husband--yes, My Husband--took ownership of a plant.

     Another tune runs through my mind. This time it's the voice of Mary Wells, singing My Guy. I hum ....

                                                                   ***

     After a hard days' work, we sit back in our white wicker lounge chairs, umbrella overhead, wine glass in hand and gaze up at the tomato plant. We wait for our luscious homegrown tomatoes to ripen and drop into our loving hands.

 

 

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