High on my list of dreams for my some-day-one-day-future-home has always been to have a big sunny window with a wide sill on which to grow potted herbs. I never expected this from my first home, but nearly got it anyway when I walked into my first apartment on August 31, 2013 and took immediate note of the living room window’s unexpectedly wide windowsill. Its fresh coat of paint shining, I visualized a row of clay pots along it, thin green-brown oregano stems arcing towards the glass. I also visualized a reality in which I never had to buy 99-cent herb packets again. It seemed in that moment that I was going to check the indoor horticulture dream off the list much sooner than I had thought.
However, my original expectations were accurate all along. The window turned out to be a north-facing one, but on top of that, it was blocked almost entirely by a robust Alba rosebush dotted in rich pink blooms. Sunlight enough for even the most laissez faire basil plant would not be making it to that windowsill.
I stubbornly bought clay pots anyway and over the next two months proceeded to slowly kill all four seedlings and sear raised clay rings into the paint. I was disappointed, but more than that I was enamored with the surprise rose bush. Like a thick, wild curtain, it separated everything behind my glass from everything happening outside of it. It grew taller and wider, and with its increase in size came an explosion of neon blooms and the sense that the actual window shade was irrelevant. It required no maintenance, just a steady stream of hogged afternoon sun that seemed to be more than enough to keep secluding and seducing me.
It was an apartment-dwelling introvert’s dream. Total beauty, total privacy.
As I adjusted to living in that very first home of mine, it also gave me something to look forward to and love about the new 800-square-foot space I was learning to inhabit. A creature of habit, I liked pulling into the end space in the parking lot after work, right in front of the rosebush, and knowing that my own secret space was waiting for me just on the other side. I liked waking up to it in the morning and feeling freshness and life before I even walked outside.
It was strong, too; that first Thanksgiving, one last flower was still alive and brilliantly bright pink, pressed up against the outside of the glass in the 40° weather. Every early winter morning, I drank my coffee standing in front of the window, shade pulled all the way up (didn’t need it anyway), to admire that bush. I studied it, thinking about emulating the stubborn, steadfast little rose weathering the wind chill. It wasn’t until sometime around New Year’s that it finally fell off.
In the three years we lived in the apartment, the bush grew not only in size but in functionality. No longer was it just free artwork and an overgrown privacy screen – now it was also an effective shield for spying on neighbors’ sidewalk arguments and a highly desirable location for springtime birds’ nests and rabbit holes. I didn’t ever expect to be able to grow a healthy garden of indoor herbs in that apartment, but I really did not expect to watch baby birds and bunnies from the window of my nondescript Jersey curbside apartment on Easter.
The bush was trimmed and hacked at a number of times. Each time, I took it personally. This was probably in part because each trim meant that my bedhead and easily offensive couch positions would now be visible to the entire parking lot until the bush grew back. But it was also in part because it was a threat to this beautiful freeform creature that had come to represent so much of what was good in that first home – my privacy, my strength, and my growth.
My indulged nosiness.
I grew over the last three years too – maybe not as much, but as stubbornly. Sometimes I forget that, but as I write it down I know it’s true. I am very different from 23-year-old me. Brian is too. We’ve grown up – and we’ve grown out of our little apartment. This past June, we decided not to renew our lease.
We went on vacation in June as well. We arrived back in New Jersey at midnight on a hot morning one week later and made the drive home from the airport, stopping at Wawa for emotional eats. At about 2 AM, we slowly rolled into the apartment complex and made a left-hand turn into the parking lot. And there it was – an empty bed of dried-up mulch in front of the window, rosebush gone.
I’m not kidding – I burst into hot, frustrated tears.
I ate my Wawa hoagie in the new glow of the parking lot light, which for the last 34 months had been conveniently shielded from us. It was a good thing we had stopped because now I really had the need to eat my feelings.
In the morning, I stood outside on the sidewalk staring at the empty spot in front of my window and the brown streaks across the parking lot where the bush had clearly been dragged away (kicking and screaming, I imagined). Well, I thought, at least we aren’t going to be here much longer. Maybe it was a sign that we made the right choice to move.
You’ll tell yourself anything to help you sleep a little better, right?
Just last week, we packed up and moved. I forgot that moving is – for true lack of a better word – such a shitty process. It doesn’t help when – like us – you’re not moving on to your next (semi-)permanent destination, but instead into a temporary holding pattern. In that way, moving doesn’t really feel like growth. It feels like stagnation, or like being ripped out of one place and left with your roots unplanted, dangling.
But in the context of beautiful, bright, stubborn, freeform life, it is growth. We grew out of that home, so we moved out of that home. That’s intentional, forward, upward, somewhere growth, right? I keep reminding myself of that.
The day before we turned in our keys, I stood out in the parking lot after a day of moving seemingly endless carloads of crap and took this picture. In the mulch, there is a little rosebush stubbornly growing back – probably whatever bit happened to narrowly escape removal the first time around. It is already dotted with hot pink flowers.
I like to think it looks like a very beautiful, classy middle finger aimed at the property management company that decided to rip it up – or at the world in general for trying to get in its way. Maybe it technically looks more like two fingers making a peace sign. Maybe it’s more forgiving about the incident than I am, or it’s trying to put things in perspective for me.
I also like to think it looks like a beautiful, classy pointer finger – albeit a little freeform – pointing up and away, towards something new. Towards growth.
Whatever helps me to sleep better, right?