Aloe Vera is the only good thing about burning myself. It looks a little bit like a cactus: it acts like one too. It doesn’t drink a lot of water, so it’s easy to forget about when I don’t need it. But it’s the first thing I think of when I get too close to the gas burner on Gramma’s stove. That’s what happened today.
Gramma has so many Aloe Vera plants in her house. The one in the basement window is my favorite. Gramma collects all different colored bottles and vases of all different sizes. They sit in the windows of her house, and they shine so pretty when the sun comes out. There are some of these vases in the laundry room, really dusty ones, right beside her forgotten Aloe plant. The laundry room is where all of the forgotten and misplaced things go: scraps of fabric, old sewing machines, broken baskets, a huge Mexican sombrero, and Styrofoam pieces litter the floor. It’s definitely our favorite room in the house. Gramma and I go to the basement for hours at a time, making pillows and pockets with the scraps from the material cupboard. Today we are making a sock doll. That’s how I burned my hand: we had to soak white socks in hot tea to color them tan for the doll’s body. For her dress, Gramma and I picked a cream fabric with little purple flowers on it. The hair will be made from the scraps of yarn in the cupboard, and her eyes are two black buttons that I picked out of the button tin. It’s so much fun creating things with Gramma. She never gets impatient with me or scolds me for breaking the bobbin thread. I watch her work alongside the sewing machine; soon, it’s my turn. Easy now, Lauren, this isn’t a race. I hope that one day you don’t drive as fast as you sew! And then the bobbin breaks again, because my hands aren’t as quick as hers, and I can’t keep up with the machine. She rethreads it and lets me start again. I’m not as focused as Gramma is either. She always watches the stitching as she sews, but I look all around the room. I spy her shelf of threads above me, the Chinese pin cushion beside me, the Velcro, the needles, the seam ripper, and the radio all around me. Gramma, why do you have all this stuff? How do you know where to find everything? She spots what I’m looking at, and remembers that she should water her Aloe Vera plant. I stop sewing. If I need it, I know where to find it. It’s organized clutter. I save all these things for when you need them…Do you have an Aloe plant? Gramma is pulling out pieces of her own plant, and placing them into one of the smaller turquoise vases that is sitting in the window. In case I burn myself? But what will I do with it? And I’ll forget to water it. She tells me that Aloe plants are different: they’re special because they don’t need to be taken care of very well. They can do without water—or care—when they’re forgotten about, but they spring right back up again when they’re thought of…relief for a burn. I thought about what she said and took the plant from her. I decided that I could find room for it somewhere; I could make time for it when I had the time to give. We got back to working on our big project, and I didn’t forget the plant before I left her house.
This moment doesn’t cross my mind often enough. I blame that part on the plant itself: it doesn’t call for much attention, so I sometimes forget how important it can be when I need it the most. I deadhead it when it looks down, and I give it the occasional water when I’m straightening up my bathroom. It’s only a plant—it means so much less to me than the person who gave the gift—but I sometimes forget that my relationship with my grandma requires more work than the occasional straightening up or sunlight. Fortunately, my grandmother (like her signature plant) is forgiving. In the end, it doesn’t matter how long I’ve been away or busy: Gramma is always receptive to the love I have to give, even though sometimes it’s few and far between. She is always there when I need her the most; in return, I need to remember to always be her Aloe Vera, too.
-Spring 2012/Senior Year of High School