Sylvia was very shy. Although she was timid to talk to, there was some undefinable joy that permeated her unremarkable appearance. At her data entry job, she would sit in her cubicle behind a false sense of isolation and security. Occasionally a co-worker would notice her, and ask what her secret is for always being so happy. Sylvia would blush and claim she had none, to avoid further embarrassment. She deeply feared being made fun of, so she rarely said any more than was necessary, and never shared her personal thoughts.
Sylvia knew exactly why she was always so genuinely cheerful. Her desk was neat and sparsely covered, little more than the essentials, nothing except for three little potted plants. Sylvia loves her plants. Her windows at home are stacked from floor to ceiling with pots of every imaginable shape and size, and hanging baskets brimming with bloomed foliage. She misses her desk plants each night and is grateful to greet them each workday. Leaves fill her with a secret joy. No matter where she is or what she’s doing, something green is usually nearby, and can ease her social awkwardness.
One day Sylvia came home from work with a plain cardboard box. On top of that box peered out three little plants. Sylvia wasn’t her usual perky self. Something had happened at work. The company downsized, and although she had been there for eight years, she had always failed to stand out. She smiled at the three little desk plants with tears threatening her eyes, as she made room for them in a front window sill. She didn’t feel like having dinner, so she showered and went to bed early.
The next morning she wept as she watered her tropical and temperate menagerie. Her mind worried about finding employment, and the anxiety first interviews would bring. She was lost in her train of thought when a soulful tender voice interrupted her.
“Why are you so sad today, Sylvia?” The voice asked her.
Sylvia looked around startled but saw no one. “Hello? Who said that? Is someone here?”
“I’m right here in front of you, in the hanging basket you just watered.” The voice huskily replied.
Sylvia, watering can in hand and mouth slightly agape, turned her gaze up to stare at her largest spider plant. It was a behemoth of a thing, bursting like fireworks out of the coco liner. Oh no, she thought, I’m hearing voices, my plants are talking to me.
“Come on now child, you tell me what’s got my baby so blue?” The spider plant pushed.
“I lost my job. I’m afraid to go looking for another. And afraid of if I don’t find something soon enough, before my savings run out, I’ll be in a bad place.” Sylvia just let it all out. Why not, plants won’t laugh at you, will they? Sylvia had never been so raw and honest verbally before.
“Oh, I’m sorry baby. I know how much you loved to work there. Always coming and going, day after day, happy each morning, mmm-hmm.” The spider plant soothed.
Sylvia thought about it a minute. “Well, I didn’t really love to work there. I didn’t mind it. I was just eager to see those three,” she pointed at the new comers.
“Well those three seem to be doing just fine. Don’t be sad Sylvia. Here, you can take some of my babies,” The plant started.
Sylvia looked down at the dozens of pups swinging from stems below their mother.
“Hello!” They sang to her in unison.
“Share them with the world; see if you can make a few bucks. I can always make more. Maybe they can bring joy to others too.” The spider plant reasoned.
“You can take some of my niños! My terra cotta is overflowing!” A much crowded aloe shouted out.
“My roots are so tight in here,” said a peacock plant, “perhaps you can separate me into several pots, and give me more room to stretch them out?”
One by one all of her beloved house plants began offering to propagate and share themselves with anyone who would choose to appreciate them. Sylvia couldn’t believe what she was hearing. Also, she worried she may have had a mental breakdown. She went to her shed anyways, and pulled out stacks of dirty used plastic pots. She cleaned them up as good as new. Then she drove to the hardware store and loaded her trunk with heavy bags of soil.
Over the next several days she clipped and snipped, separated and rooted all of her plethora of plants. She set up a nursery area in her dining room, because it had the best windows and sunlight. She would sing to the tender cuttings as they established in their pots. Gently watering and tending to them as if they were her very own children.
One sunny afternoon she loaded her car seats with boxes, brimming with cheerful young sprouts. Sylvia drove around to flower and garden shops all day. She must have talked to thirty different stores. Three stores agreed to purchase her potted angels, and took her information should they need another order.
A few days later, Sylvia took photos of dozens of her lovely plants and created a web-site to sell them. After two months she was able to invest in a greenhouse for her backyard. Sylvia had the happiest plants, and they beamed for her camera. Her houseplant business grew and grew.
She continued her tenderness and care with each new batch of babies in the nursery. She would always tell them the story of their elders. It began like this…
“One day, I lost my job,” the sprouts would lean in to listen to the tale.
“It was the greatest day of my life.”