I'm no tourism expert, so I can't say what draws most people to visit California. The beach perhaps, or maybe Hollywood. Maybe the redwood forest. I can, however, confidently assume that most people don't fly across the country to attend their own mother's estate sale. The mother they hadn't seen, or spoken to, in 14 years.
Walking around in the gorgeous home she spent presumably the last 14 years in was interesting, to say the least. It was hard to recognize what used to be my mother, besides how extremely neat everything was kept inside. That was definitely her. It seemed she tried to 'bring the outdoors in' with her decor. So many natural elements, and all of the furniture was made of what looked like high-end reclaimed wood. As I walked into the sunroom, I found Ginny. "How much for the plant?" I wondered. "O, uh...that? Gee, we didn't even think to put a tag on it - how's five bucks?"
Ginny, as mom had called her, was a ficus ginseng. A unique bonsai mom had admired. I remember her first appearance on Mom's YouTube channel. Mom raved about how she discovered this "one of a kind beauty" at her local plant market, describing her admiration in detail as she tended to her. Watching Mom's channel had become a guilty pleasure of mine. I never liked, commented or subscribed. I just watched from afar as mom tended to a plant in more ways than she ever did to me.
"Sit up straight, Marissa."
"Wear your hair in a ponytail, Marissa, you're prettier that way."
"Don't eat that candy, Marissa. No one likes a girl whose plump."
No matter what I did, I was just never enough. I never told Dad that I watched her channel, I knew he'd be too upset. He was still heartbroken about the random day 14 years ago that she loudly announced "I'm done" before picking up her things and hightailing out to California to become a newly proclaimed lesbian and Botanist. I stayed living with Dad, tending to him, too worried to let him live alone.
In my early 20s I attempted to date, which was comical to say the least. Anytime a man showed interest in me, I cowered. There will be a catch my mind would say. I was extremely uncomfortable with any sign of physical affection and found it easier to just avoid it. I eventually gave up, diving my time and attention into my academic studies and career.
Meanwhile, through her love of these odd plants like Ginny, Mom really made a name for herself on YouTube and grew to an impressive number of subscribers. She was even featured on local television, which is how I heard about her when a friend texted me one day about five years ago. "Hey, isn't this your Mom?" she asked with a screenshot attached. Yes, it is. Or it was? I wasn't even sure how to respond.
Further investigation led me to Mom's YouTube channel, which already had almost 1 million subscribers. WHOA. On the channel she talked about her love of plants and how to tend to them carefully to allow them to thrive. The first video I almost turned off after thirty seconds. It was just too painful. But yet, I kept watching. That was the thing about Mom. She had this magnetic personality that really drew you in. You wanted to be on her good side, and craved that positive attention from her that seemed so impossible to receive. I felt familiar feelings of rejection and yet yearning for her affection as I watched. I became envious of plants.
In future videos I learned that she had been living in California, had become a professional Botanist (or so she says), and had been "radiantly happy" with her "soulmate" Carol. Carol was never on the screen, but whenever Mom brought up her name, she beamed. I found it vile. Who the hell is Carol? Does she even know I exist?
Due to Mom's popularity, her unexpected death also made the local news, which is how I found out about it. Someone on her social media account, I'm assuming Carol, posted an ad for an estate sale quickly after. Estate sale featuring one-of-a-kind, unique collectibles from world-famous Botanist, Lillian Deray.
Disgusting. Upon seeing the ad, I was a bit in shock so I called my Therapist. I hired her after finding the first video and realizing my life couldn't successfully continue with the breakdowns that occurred afterward. "Hm, that's interesting," she responded "If you decide to go, it may help you feel like you have tied up some loose ends, or gained some closure with your mother." I knew at that moment I needed to go. I told Dad I was taking a business trip and would be back within three days. I was back in two.
I didn't plan on leaving with anything. But Ginny, amidst all of Mom's plants, always intrigued me the most. There was my mother on YouTube, a woman who could never bring herself to pay me a compliment, publicly worshipping this strange plant that, to me, looked like a butt.
When I brought Ginny home, it felt in some strange way that Mom was back. Even better, she couldn't leave. I sat there in a trance just staring at her, processing everything over the past 14 years. Or maybe more like an entire lifetime. My mother never accepting of me. My mother doting so heavily on this plant.
I jumped a bit as Dad poked his head in. "What is that?! It looks like a butt!" he questioned. I laughed, "I found it at a local plant mart and thought it was unique." He shrugged his shoulders. I'd never tell him the truth, that it belonged to Mom. In a way that neither of us ever could.
I winked at Ginny. I'd tend to her like Mom would. The way I wish she would have to me.