My sister called, asking, “Can you help me identify a mystery plant?” This was an unusual question because she'd never shown an interest in plants.
“Sure, Jen!” I was a bit full of myself having recently graduated from the Master Gardener course and thought either I or my friend Shirley would know. "Can you bring me a leaf or take a photo?"
“Not really. I see it from my office window since they moved us up to the third floor. The people who live near there have a billion kids, and with all the 'stranger danger' talk lately.”
“Fair enough. When do you want me to come look at it? I'm sure I'll know what it is."
“Sis, bring Shirley too? it'll be good to see her again.'"
“Sure, but tell me what this mystery plant looks like, maybe I'll know.”
I listened as she rolled her office chair back the walked to the window..”It's green, big, maybe a shrub or bush? Right now it's covered in white flowers, like a large snowball."
“Hmmmmm. What did it look like last winter”
'Don't know. We weren't up here last winter."
I called my best friend and fellow plant lover Shirley. I explained the situation and after we googled the plant's description and looked through our mountains of plant books, decided we'd better take a closer look at this wonderful mystery plant."
Jen met us at the third-floor elevator and walked us to her office. We looked out her window, and there it was, just like she said, some kind of shrub or tree? It really stood out and we agreed that it was beautiful, but had no idea what it was.
Sherry suggested we get a closer look, we can do a drive-by. Not too slow though or people will think we're casing the joint.”
I said, “Let's bet on it!" We'd made these little bets often. The winner got a hug and the 'loser' donated twenty dollars to the Women's Shelter or Animal Rescue. It started out as a joke and continued for twenty years.
“Sounds like a plan,” Jen said, “But count me out. I'll never know what it is.”
“It's Okay, you discovered it, so you're in. Maybe they'll name it after you!"
We laughed and walked to the parking lot like a flock of baby chicks, or more like clucking old hens.”
Driving in downtown traffic at lunchtime is a slow painful ordeal, so many vehicles creeping along, like lazy ants.
“I'll go around the block again and pull over. We'll walk to get a good look,” said Shirley,
“Yeah, “I only have an hour for a lunch break and I'm hungry.”
We parked several houses down and began walking.
A pack of little kids played in the yard with the mystery plant. As we drew closer, a little boy with a mop of black hair and a Detroit Red Wings t-shirt ran to us and said, “If you're from the school, I didn't do it, so go away!”
We stopped, not sure how to proceed, then decided honesty was the best policy. Shirley hunkered down and smiled, saying, “We're not from the school, so no worries, what's your name? Mine's Shirley."
“Zippy. And I'm almost six!"
“That's a very interesting name, Zippy”
“Well, it's really Wendel.” He made a gagging face. “Everybody calls me Zippy though, except Grandma, she calls me Sweetie.”
He frowned and chewed his bottom lip and asked, “Are you from a church group? Don't go to our house or Mama will chase you with her wooden spoon. She hates it when people come to our door. She says that she already met Jesus, and the other bastards want to sell something.”
Jen let out a little chirp and we all laughed, except Zippy.
“We're not here to sell anything, we want to know what kind of plant is in front of your house, we love plants and think it's pretty."
Shirley looked at it more closely and rolled her eyes and started to laugh, I joined in and Zippy ran up to us, probably to see what was so funny.'
"What are you laughing about?” Jen asked.
"Yeah, what's so funny?" Zippy ran closer and looked.
Sherry told her, "This is a yew bush, and they're all around here. Look at them in front of nearly every house.” she waved toward the other yards. “Yew's are considered 'protectors' and good luck by many groups of people. They were also the best wood for making bows and arrows. They even make cancer medicine from it!"
“Huh,” the other three said.
“Remember when I took that med for five years after my breast cancer? That med is derived from Yews!”
“But, Nancy, those don't have these beautiful white flowers, so what's the deal?”
“Yeah, what's the deal?" Zippy walked over and plucked one of the flowers off and sniffed it, "It doesn't smell.. Gran's roses smell pretty."
Shirley said, “The white flowers are from the Bindweed, vine, and it's a weed. It's extremely hard to get rid of.”
"Oh," Jen said, sighing, " I really like it. Maybe I'll plant a yew and some bindweed with it?"
"You could, Sis, But I wouldn't recommend it because it's very invasive and will take over your yard, and your neighbor's yards as well. They might come after you with torches and pitchforks!”
“Really?” Zippy asked.
I laughed. “No, it's, well, . . . it happened a long, long time ago and people still say it.”
“Well, that's good. I don't want people chasing Mom with forks!”
We reassured him that this wouldn't happen.
“ I really like it!” Jen said,” I wanted one for my front garden area where there's nothing but grass. I never got around to planting anything.."
“Don't worry sis, there are white lilacs, Roses, and many other choices. We'll take you to the garden center and I'm sure you'll find something you like just as well.”
Shirley added, “We'll even help you plant whatever you choose.”
A woman stepped out of the house and Zippy ran toward her, "Mom! They said we're growing weed in our yard!”