Thankful For A Mistake

On this Thanksgiving Day, I’m thankful for not always getting what I want. I know, it’s such a corny, trite statement, and you can probably hear a Keith Richards guitar line in the back of your mind, along with Mick Jagger starting to sing, “I saw her today at the reception …”

But it’s true. In this case—I’m thankful for a little bonsai tree I bought for my wife for Mother’s Day. I ordered a pink azalea bonsai from an online florist, only to have the tree arrive with no pink azaleas. It looked like a dull green house plant devoid of color, and it presented no surprise when my wife pulled it out of the box. An online chat failed to resolve the matter, meaning no replacement or refund, and I had to live with the bonsai.

But then a strange thing happened. I began to care for it—setting it on top of a windowsill, exposing its branches to sunlight, using a measuring cup every morning to pour a generous amount of water on the soil and splashing droplets of water on its leaves with my fingers.

My bonsai tree. Photo by Francis DiClemente.

I gave the plant daily positive reinforcement before placing it back in its spot—saying things like, “You’re doing good. We’re proud of you. We love you. You’re a member of the family.” I also breathed on it, hoping my exhalation of carbon dioxide would help sustain the plant.

And the tree remains alive today. This is quite a feat, considering I’m no plant person. I have no green thumb. I don’t spend my summers tending to a garden of tomatoes, beans and corn in a vast plot of land in my backyard. I’m an urban apartment dweller.

But I am proud that six months after Mother’s Day, the little bonsai is still going strong. I’m grateful that it adds a little life to my drab existence. And I do believe if the bonsai had come with blooming pink azaleas, it would have been tossed out in the trash a long time ago.

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