A metaphysical errand for a metaphorical gift
I had a plan, but my late mother-in-law had a plant.
My husband’s birthday was coming up, and I wanted to surprise him with a small redbud tree. He asked for shorts. The older I get, the less satisfactory it is to buy someone shorts on their birthday. Milestones deserve metaphors, and trees are metaphors for blooming where one is planted.
Since trees don’t do well in closets, I had to execute my plan on his birthday. I had a dozen birthday errands to run that day, so I mapped them out on Google, making a large loop that started with the bakery and ended at the nursery.
Things went wrong immediately. The cake I wanted was gone, and three bakeries later, I had to settle for one with fussy buttercream frosting that was sure to melt in the car. My luck didn’t change with the shoes, the food, and, yes, the shorts.
My circle was starting to look like a scribble. The only thing these stores had in common besides frustration was “hens and chicks” plants for sale. This plump perennial appears as a large rosette (the hen) surrounded by smaller rosettes (the chicks). At least, this is what my late mother-in-law had told me. She had one by her backdoor, which she kept in a strange multilevel pot that enabled the chicks to start their own families below the main hen.
I had never seen this plant outside of my mother-in-law’s house, and in two frustrating hours, I had seen it five times, including in the nursery that DIDN’T have the redbud tree. Every time I saw them, I thought of her and how this would be my husband’s first birthday without her.
The buttercream cake and my cell phone were dying. I raced home and searched online for a redbud tree I could pick up ASAP, finding a Menards that claimed to have one in stock. I called to confirm and took off.
Fact: I haven’t lived here long, so I used the GPS to find “Menards”.
Fact: There are three Menards near me.
Fact: I don’t know which one I called.
The Menards my GPS chose didn’t have my tree, but they did have a whole table of hens and chicks. The Menards I needed was on the opposite side of town in the middle of a service drive maze that I missed four (yes, four) times. This Menards did not have a garden center entrance, so I had to jog to the main entrance and back to the garden center, past a table of hens and chicks.
I did find my tree. As no garden center cashiers were available, I had to jog past the hens and chicks to get a cart, and then past them again to get the tree, and then past them again to...
Each of these hens and chicks plants was in a pot just like the multi-level one my mother-in-law kept by her backdoor. I picked one up, tears stinging my eyes. This wasn’t a coincidence. This was an errand. My mother-in-law wanted to buy her son a birthday present – the chick who no longer had a hen on this mortal plane.
And I was her errand girl.
The tree was a big hit, but I got one-upped by the matriarch, which is only fair.
Her metaphor was better.