Weed Gardening

Last winter over dinner, a friend disclosed that she had something to share.

"Seeds." She leaned forward with her hands cupped over her mouth. "Marijuana seeds," she whispered. As if someone from the FBI was eavesdropping on our conversation from across the elegant restaurant.

She popped open an amber prescription bottle and spilled a dozen seeds onto the tablecloth. "How cool is this?"

I moved the wine glasses to either side of the table and scrutinized the little brown specks. "What kind of seeds are they?" I asked.

She looked at me with wide eyes. "Kind? There are different kinds?"

I pushed at the seeds with my butter knife. "Beats me."

The waiter arrived with a water pitcher in hand. Instinctively, I covered the seeds with my bar napkin. "I feel like I'm 14-years-old again!"

"I know, this feels positively illegal," she giggled quietly, conspiratorially. "Isn't it great?"

We each took home six seeds that night. I took mine into the bathroom and tucked them into three separate paper Dixie cups, filled half way with dirt from my yard. I set the Dixie cups on the ledge above the toilet. Perfect location.

After five days, I found six tiny green newcomers peeking out of the dirt, two in each cup. They all sprouted!

After a month or two, I buried the cups in plastic pots that I filled with store-bought potting soil and moved them to a sunny window facing the backyard.

By June, the stalks were thick as a finger, the roots reached out of the drainage holes and clumped around the exterior of the plastic pots.

I ordered six five-gallon planter pots from an online vendor, along with several bags of soil and some stakes used to tame tomato plants. And again, I transplanted and, except for weekly watering, I ignored them.

"What are you going to do when the kids come home?" My husband wanted to know.

I shrugged off the question. I am an avid gardener, and my house is stuffed with houseplants. I figured they'd hardly notice a new variety. Plus, they are adults, full grown, in their 20s.

My son came for dinner one night and before kissing my cheek he asked. "Is that weed?"

"How did you recognize it so fast?" I asked, hoping to think of something clever to say while he answered.

"It's hard to miss," he laughed. "I mean, those are the healthiest marijuana plants I've ever seen. What are you going to do with them?"

Do with them? What did he think I was going to do?

"Don't tell anyone," I said, suddenly sensitive. "Dad is worried."

My son scoffed. "What's he worried about? It's not illegal."

"Doesn't matter." I pulled at his sleeve. "Promise you won't say anything."

My son promised the way children do, convincing neither of us.

In August, I moved the plants outside to the back patio. "What if we're spotted by aerial surveillance photography?" My husband wondered aloud while standing on a chair and clipping the lower leaves as instructed on the YouTube video for strengthening the marijuana stalks. What began as a simple planting whim had turned into a serious research project. We'd found an old junior microscope left over from one of our kid's birthdays celebrated decades ago, and we used it to scrutinize the gender of our six green offspring. "All females," my husband had announced like a proud Papa. By then, the plants towered above our heads by five feet or more. "You can probably see these from the space station!"

He bought some fake sunflowers and clipped them, here and there, to the heavier stalks. When finished, he asked: "How does that look?"

I couldn't help myself. "It looks like you clipped plastic flowers onto the stalks." But it didn't matter. The solution brought him comfort.

My mother came over for dinner near the end of the month. She'd spilled some sugary confection on her sleeve, and went immediately to the kitchen sink to rinse off the stain. "Is that marijuana?" she asked, pointing through the window now completely obscured behind Jack-and-the-Beanstalk foliage.

"That's it," my husband said. "I'm cutting them down."

"Don't!" my mother barred his exit with both arms outstretched, herding him away from the door. "It's almost harvest time," she said. She's a gardener, too. "Let's wait and see what happens." She coaxed the gardening shears out of his hand.

Just recently, the friend who brought the seeds to me came to our house for dinner. "I have a progress report on my plant!" she said, pulling out her phone. She swiped, searching for the photo. "Here it is. It's growing like a true weed!" On the screen, a single reedy thread of green rose from a ceramic planter. One thin stalk, with maybe 10 lace-delicate leaves drooping weakly near the top. She looked so excited, like she'd lured pure gold from the dirt. And then, she looked up and asked. "How are yours? Did any of them take?"

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