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by Sharlene Leker

     I have a notable inability to make plants grow. Some may even categorize my lack of talent as having a black thumb. Never the less, I asked my 4-year old Granddaughter, Katie, if she would like to plant some Poppy seeds. “We can watch them as they grow,” I suggested. I thought it would be a fun Grandma/Granddaughter project. With wide, exuberant eyes, she vigorously nodded her head in agreement, all the while clapping her hands and dancing a happy little jig. Uh oh, I thought. Reflecting on my past gardening skills, I just may have paved the way leading

to disappointment. 

     I had a large flower pot sitting on the patio that had been neglected since my last attempt at growing something green. I pointed to the pot and asked, “How about we plant the seeds in there?” Another nod, dance, and handclap in agreement. “Nana?” She asked, “How many seeds can we plant?” “How many would you like to plant?” I asked in reply. “Oh, let’s plant them all!” Somehow I knew that would be her answer.

     We went into the garage and collected the small gardening tools and returned to the awaiting pot. I handed her the “claw” tool and she began digging around in the dirt. When she was satisfied with her effort, I tore open the small bag of seeds and poured them into her tiny hands. She haphazardly sprinkled them onto the dirt, took her gardening tool and gently raked the seeds into the soil. I’m not quite sure her planting technique will produce a satisfactory outcome, but I let her do it her way. After all, who am I to give gardening advice? “How’s it going?” I asked. She excitedly demonstrated her approval with two thumbs-up. I took a quick glance and noticed her tiny thumbs weren’t black, only smudged with dirt. I hope it’s a sign that she didn’t get the plant-killing gene from her grandma. But it remains to be seen if her thumbs are green.

     “Now, let’s give the seeds a little drink,” I suggested. I handed her the watering can that I had previously filled and she sprinkled a little water over the dirt. Then we stood back and admired the newly planted seeds in the old terra cotta pot. “When will they grow?” She asked with eagerness. I began explaining the waiting period of planted seeds. Her smile faded and her lips puffed out into a child-like pout. “You mean we have to wait?” I began to explain. “Remember last summer? When you found the scissors and secretly went into the bathroom and cut your own hair?” She nodded. And in her own defense, she rapidly replied, “I know it didn’t look so good, but when Mama came into the bathroom, I had already put my hair back on with tape so she wouldn’t notice.” “Yes, and after that, do you remember your mom taking you to the hairdresser and the lady gave you a haircut to match your haircutting style?” She nodded. “Well, Katie, these seeds are kind of like your hair. You wanted your long hair back but it didn’t happen immediately. It took time to grow. It’s the same with these seeds, it takes time for them to grow. Each time you come for a visit, you can check on the seeds and watch for any signs of growth.” Her smile returned and she agreed.

   Spring had arrived and the bright sun smiled down on the dormant seeds. Tiny slivers of green pushed their way through the sod, stretching their petite stems in victory as though breaking free from their earthen captor. It seemed to take no time at all until they filled the surface of the old clay pot like like a patch of fresh grass. I could hardly wait for Katie to see the progress.

     I was in the kitchen, making lunch, when I heard the doorbell ring. I headed to the door but Katie didn’t wait for me to answer. She burst through the door, ran through the house, barely acknowledging my existence, then out the back door to the patio - no doubt to check on her seeds. Suddenly, I heard her excited cry, “Nana, Nana! Hurry! Come and see!” I rushed to the patio and and watched as Katie gently passed her hand back and forth across the tops of the green stems, as though she were gingerly stroking a new-born kitten. She looked up at me and asked with excitement, “Nana, what kind of puppies do you think we’ll get?”

     “Puppies?” I questioned. “What ever gave you the idea we planted seeds that would grow puppies?” She tilted her head to one side and the quizzical scowl on her face proved her bewilderment. 

     “Well, Nana, you did. You said we were going to plant some puppies. And we put the puppy seeds right here in this pot.” At that moment I knew she was about to be sorely disappointed. “Katie, I’m so sorry about the misunderstanding. It may have sounded like we were planting puppies but the seeds we planted are flowers, called poppies.” She quickly jerked her hand away from the tender plants and folded her arms in disgust. With tears in her eyes, she bowed her head and sadly mumbled, “I thought we were growing puppies,” Then she stomped into the house and slammed the door behind her.

     I felt terrible. I followed her into the house and showed her the empty packet of seeds and began to explain, “When you plant poppy seeds, you don’t get puppies, you get flowers. You always get what you plant. Her demeanor suddenly changed and I could tell she had an idea.“Well then,” she began, “Can we go to the store and get some seeds to grow puppies?”

     I really didn’t want to explain to her where puppies came from so I quickly passed the buck. “Katie, you’ll have to ask your mother about that one.”

She quickly turned and ran to her mother. By the look on my daughter’s face, I knew I was in the doghouse.

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