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When I was a teenager, I begged my parents for a garden. Looking back, I understand this is a completely nerdy request for that age. While other kids were having sex and smoking pot, I was researching why my tomato plants were withering so quickly. (Hey, parents! Worried about having the birds-and-the-bees conversation with your kid? Just plant them a garden. Abstinence guaranteed… whether they like it or not.)

I’m sure my mom and dad were laughing under their breath as we all trekked to The Home Depot to buy wire fencing for my 10’x10′ plot of backyard. But they did it anyway, obliging my short-lived quest to be a farmer. And a farmer I was! I grew cucumbers, peppers and tomatoes. They were delicious. I was proud.

But I quickly learned that gardens take work. Between weeding, tilling, watering, and shooing away pesky New Jersey deer and rodents, I was exhausted. There were many hours involved and, frankly, it was cutting into my General Hospital time (or as it now reveals itself, my afternoon sex education class). Yes, Sonny Corinthos is a ruthless mob boss, but when he loves a woman, he really loves a woman.

My garden didn’t last long. The weeds quickly took over and I couldn’t keep up. I decided to move onto the next big thing: selling fabulous, couture braided jewelry after softball practice. I don’t look at my garden as a failure, really. In point of fact, it was a huge success in providing my enormous family with enough fresh ingredients for approximately 18 large salads. Plus, it fed at least one raccoon family for a few months. Not too shabby at all.

And now, years later, I’m reminded of my garden as I look at my sweet house plant, Frank. Given to me by a former boss with the same name, Frank and I have been together for one year now. We’ve had our ups and downs, but Frank is different from other plants I’ve had, and definitely different than my garden.

You see, Frank and I have a good understanding. When I first met him, I looked him in the leaves and said, “Frank, let’s get one thing straight. I will love you. But I will not talk to you every day. And I may forget to water you once in a while. Still I will love you. And in return, you will give me oxygen.” I swear in that moment Frank leaned his wiry stem over and nodded at me. The chemistry was instantaneous.

I followed through on my promise. I do my best (or close to my best) to take care of him, and he somehow survives. A couple weeks ago as I prepared to leave for a one-week vacation, I looked at him and said, “I’m leaving for a while. You’re going to have to fend for yourself. You’re a big boy. You can do it.” With that, I poured about a gallon of water into his pot, put a towel on the floor to catch the drips, and rolled my suitcase out the door.

When I returned after vacation, I immediately walked over to check on Frank, half expecting a dead plant.

But Frank is full of surprises.

He had not only survived, he had thrived. Even after being thirsty and dry, alone in a dark apartment for seven full days, he sprouted new, beautiful, bright green leaves. And I smiled.

“You did it, Frank! You are amazing!”

And right then, weary from a long day of traveling, I realized that: a) I was talking to my plant like it was a human; 2) This plant was actually teaching me life lessons.

Next step? Bring on the cats.

From a romantic relationship standpoint, I’m alone… like Frank was alone in my apartment all that time. Others have written me off in the love department. Some family members and friends don’t expect me to ever get married. Sometimes I doubt that possibility myself. At this point, I’m truly going it alone.

But that doesn’t mean I can’t live. It doesn’t mean exciting things can’t happen. It doesn’t mean I have to lay down and die. I can absolutely still sprout new, beautiful, bright green leaves of adventure, friendship, faith and life.

Thanks, Frank. I owe you one. Tonight, I’ll let you choose which TV show we watch, okay? But please, no more HGTV!

~Ruth