Monday, July 27, 2015

Baby Doll

Adrenalin charged through my veins the instant my eyes fell on the distinctive shape. I dashed across the room, ready to plow down anything that dared to come between me and the object of my desires. After a multi-week city-wide man hunt and a quick read of the plant tag to be sure I wasn't hallucinating, I breathed easy. Finally, finally! I had tracked down a split-leaf philodendron, and I was in love.

And why, pray tell, with a house quite bursting with pretty plants, was I so inconsolably obsessed with this particular species? A story is in order.

* * * * *

My love for the split-leaf philodendron is rooted deep in my childhood. I recall, with vivid detail, the waiting room at my pediatrician's office in Ann Arbor, Michigan. That light-infused room simmered with more mid-century swag than any set of Mad Men.

Bertoia wire chairs.
Danish teak lamps.
Walnut-paneled walls.
Framed abstract art.

I loved every inch of my doctor's stylish space. But best of all was the special corner designed for the young patients' amusement.

In a small niche at one end of the room, floor-to-ceiling walnut shelves waited with an irresistible assortment of toys. I'm sure I played with a jack-in-the-box, and a wooden truck that carried a cargo of geometric blocks. But it was the baby doll in her flowered cradle that totally obsessed me, and I recall that whenever the nurse called me back to the exam room, I insisted upon tucking the baby into bed before I left her.

Dr. Dietrich presided over this happy paradise. A quiet, gentle man, he reminded me of a soft-spoken, more handsome version of Walt Disney. Though I don't recall, my mom often told me that at the end of one visit, as he walked us out to the front room, all the while continuing his conversation with us, my doctor leaned down to that same cradle, settled the baby straight in her bed, and pulled the covers up to her chin.

To the right of the shelves, basking in the muted light of the sun streaming through pinch-pleated drapes, grew a luxurious split-leaf philodendron. The long tendrils stood supported by a rough-hewn wooden plank, which caught my imagination right away. A chunk of wood in a planter? I had never seen such a thing.

But even more fascinating to my childish mind were the bizarre loops and elongated holes decorating the leaves  Even as a mere toddler, I had made my way around plenty of plants in my day, and I had never encountered anything similar.  Sure that they must signal some sort of horrible disease or malformation, I eventually asked my mom who reassured me that, no, these were perfectly normal for this sort of plant.

So my moments of playing in this safe and serene corner were overseen by this beautiful plant, and thus was born my tender affection for the species.

* * * * *

These memories rushed through my mind as I stood with the plant tag in my hand. The intricate design of the familiar leaves still played the same magical music for me, and I snatched up my new friend and brought him home.

I know. It's just a plant. But every time I pass by my jungle bench and see those amazing cut-out leaves, I feel just as cozy and content as a baby doll tucked into bed.

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