How to Grow a Pepper Plant and Other Things My Mother Taught Me

Marcie clutched the plant carefully in her mittened hands as she walked tentatively up the un-shoveled walkway. It had snowed the night before but what she was trudging through now was an accumulation from days of snowfall. She heard a sound and turning around, watched a large black bird fly above her head. She chuckled to herself at the Hitchcockian setting, then determinedly turned and crunched her way to the front porch.

She stopped, eyeing the steps dubiously while fiddling with the button on her coat. The coat had been her mother’s and was the only thing she had left of her. She had been an only child and had no other family so losing her had changed her whole life. Since at the time of her mother’s passing Marcie had only been eleven she had gone into foster care, the coat being the only thing she still had to remind her of that life. She lowered her head sadly in thought and then, as if pulled by a string, raised her head high, chin thrust out, shoulders thrown back, stormed up the rickety looking steps. Before she could lose her nerve she shifted the heavy potted plant to the crook of her arm and knocked as hard as her mittened hand would allow on the incongruously bright red door.

Just then a breeze swept across the front porch where she was standing sending chills up her spine. “What on earth am I doing here?” she mumbled to herself as she nervously swiped the snow off her boots while debating a fast departure. Marcie heard a slight rustling inside the house and the knob began to turn slowly.

Marcie had been rehearsing this moment and what she would say for weeks. Now suddenly everything flew out of her head. “I’m a second year Journalism Major for goodness sake, where are my words?” she thought frantically while her panicked eyes watched the knob turning and the door cracking open before suddenly stopping on a chain. A small hand came out just below the doorknob and grasped the door as if to pull it open by force. She heard a small boy say “Who are you?” in an inquisitive voice.

Marcie spoke softly asking the boy if there was an adult she could speak with. The door was closed abruptly and she heard small footsteps running across a tiled floor, untied shoelaces making a tat tat sound as he ran.

The door was again opened but this time sans chain and she came face to face with “her”. A trick of the light from the snowy Christmas day played across her face making her eyes sparkle like sapphires. She stood there, an expectant look on her face, her impatience showing only in her tapping slippered foot. Marcie shook herself out of her reverie and thrust the plant out with a breathless greeting. “Happy Holidays I’m Marcie and I brought you a pepper plant.” The woman started a bit as the plant came at her in the darkened hallway and then clearing her throat as though she hadn’t spoken for a long time asked in a surprisingly mellifluous voice, “Who are you and why on earth did you bring me a pepper plant of all things?”

Marcie smiled tentatively looking at this woman she had wanted to meet her entire life and with the same sapphire blue eyes tearfully, silently pleading, began to recite her story. “I am Marcie and my mother was your daughter, Alecia. She told me this was your favorite plant. May I please come in so we can talk?”

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