Monday, May 7, 2012

Max’s flowers

It was the spring after Max died that the citronella plant bloomed for the first time. I didn’t even know citronella plants flowered at all. We’d had this one for four years and never seen the slightest hint of a bloom.

I noticed the clusters of tiny green buds on the spindly plant in our bathroom in late April last year. There was still snow on the ground and when the first buds began to crack open revealing tightly clasped pink petals all folded neatly over one another, it felt like a tiny miracle.

Up until then it hadn’t seemed like an entirely healthy plant. Its sister plant, the one from which it had been split a few years earlier, was growing like crazy. We’d had to stake up the tangle of stems to support the weight of new leaves sprouting almost daily, while its other half seemed to languish where it sat in the bathroom between the bathtub and a wall of windows overlooking the forest. Its woody, twisted stems were barely able to produce new leaves to replace the old ones as they turned yellow and then brown and fell off.

But then, out of nowhere, it flowered. And it kept flowering for about a month, tons of tiny pale pink flowers that made me think of cherry blossoms. I watched it closely, every day looking for new blooms, and I wasn’t disappointed. Their little faces greeted me each morning, wide-eyed and fresh, and full of life.

It was a bit of a mystery why this plant suddenly flowered, and why the other one didn’t but also why everyone I mentioned it to was just as surprised as I was to learn that citronella plants actually flower. No one I knew had seen it before.

So, when the little pink blooms appeared again this year, I immediately thought of Max. I like to think he has something to do with this since it has been two years since he’s been gone and two years now that the plant has flowered.

The citronella plant sort of came with Max when we adopted him. The people who had Max before us were throwing the plant out, so Morgan brought it home. It was a scraggily tangle of stems and leaves, not a particularly beautiful plant but it was the one green thing we could keep in the house that the cats wouldn’t utterly destroy. They’d already eaten everything else.

The plant was folded into our lives along with Max and it grew quietly in one corner of our house or another, giving off a lemony scent whenever someone brushed up against it. Mostly it became part of the background, until now that is.

The flowers are not showy, but they are remarkable, mostly because they are there at all, but more importantly because I see Max in each one of those pale pink blossoms. His spirit always was larger than life.


  1. Oh my goodness! Your post brought tears to my eyes. That's amazing. How fabulous. To me, the flowers are a tangible reminder that Max lives on. Somewhere, out of your sight, but I believe he is still there in whatever realm comes next. Just my belief, others hold different beliefs. :) Thanks for sharing the story. I didn't know Citronella bloom either - and I'm a plant person!

    1. I like to think that too Brenda, and the flowers make that thought seem all the more real. Even more so now that I know you didn't know citronella bloom. It makes this plant seem so much more special - just like Max. :)