“I wanted a perfect ending. Now I've learned, the hard way, that some poems don't rhyme, and some stories don't have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what's going to happen next. Delicious Ambiguity.”Gilda Radner

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Fox Glove FIASCO

It's taken me a few days to muster up the energy to write this. As you may or may not know, I have a lifelong fear of death by poison. I used to stand and watch my mother cook at the stove every night to be sure she wasn't throwing anything questionable into the mix. Sometimes, I'd make her taste it first. It might sound weird, like, why would my kind and loving mother poison her husband and three kids, but trust me. She'd said enough times, "I wish I could just run away and live by myself!"

Summer is my favorite time of year, and always has been. Aside from being totally addicted to the sun and warm weather (and say all you like about Buffalo; our summers can be amazing), I completely love the ease of life that summer brings. Flip flops, super casual clothes, messy ponytails...somehow "messy" becomes "breezy." I love it! Gone are the battles with ninety layers of clothes and coats, and the tug-of-war battle between mother and child over the donning of boots. Good God, the boots! Do everyone's children lay on the ground like rag dolls when it's time to throw on the galoshes?

Anyway, summer has come early this year, which I take as positive affirmation of me not working. A few mornings ago, Noah and I spent a couple hours in the garden. He's a great helper. Seriously. He stands next to me, all into it, with a cup of "food" for the plants, and dumps it carefully into all the holes I dig before we carefully place in the "baby" flowers. So adorable. But it was crazy hot out, so Noah said, "Let's go swimming at Grandma's, Mom." Good idea.

Here's another great thing about summer, though I suspect this one is unique to me. We don't have our own pool, but we DO live across the street from my mom (such a sweet deal--you should be jealous) and SHE has a pool. Not only that, but she's completely awesome. All around. When you have babies, she supplies the crib, playpen, swing, toys, and--GET THIS--buys diapers, wipes, and baby food for you. So you never have to pack a bag. And when your kids are older? She houses your sunscreen, swimsuits, towels, AND a change of clothes (that last one you have to be crafty about--she gets a little testy about "unnecessary" clothes laying around). So when Noah said, "Let's go swimming," all we had to do was climb in the car and drive across the street.

Yes, we're that lazy.

Anyway, it was so hot that we were not relieved by the temporary air conditioning in the car or in my mom's house. We jumped into the pool as soon as we were changed, reveling in the cool water. I paddled around thinking, "I have the best life in the world." And I do.

But it almost ended right then and there!

My father, landscaper extraordinaire, has beautiful plants and flowers growing with gusto all around his pool. His most recent addition are these tall, stalky flowers called "Foxglove." They'e beautiful and colorful and HUGE (and perennials, any gardener's favorite thing), but they are deadly poisonous. I didn't think much of this when he first warned me about it. I thought, "Well what do you think, I run around eating flowers for fun?"

But as I was swimming, guess what floated right by my head? Yup. A lone foxglove bud. Lovely and purple--so bright I actually thought it must be one of the kids' toys fallen in. When I saw what it was for real, I splashed away. Gah! I'm going to die!

Before you go rolling your eyes, let me tell you what ELSE happened. I know my own penchant for jumping to extreme conclusions, so I calmly asked Noah to please get out of the pool. (He wasn't happy.) Then I calmly phoned the first person I call in any crisis. My sister.

That was my first mistake.

"I am working!" she snapped, and hung up on me.


Next, I called my mother. Like me, she understands the true meaning of "emergency."

"Let me just look it up online," she said. I could hear her smiling, but I ignored it. Noah was hopping from foot to foot, all betoweled and adorable.

"Okay, got it," she said. I could hear her mouse click-clicking away, and could hear her reading silently. (You know what I mean.)

"'Foxglove is beautiful, but deadly,'" she read aloud. She read silently some more, and then, "Oh. Well....oh."

"What?" I said, immediately terrified.

"Um, well, just don't go back in the pool." She paused. "Well, maybe it's fine."


"Let me just call a nursery," she said. Her voice was annoyingly placid, like she was suggesting maybe she was about to make a call asking for conversions from the metric system. She hung up abruptly and I stood there, dripping in my towel, staring at the phone, and waiting for death.

Seconds later, the phone rang.


"It's only deadly if ingested," she said without preamble.

We hung up. Feeling slightly better, I called Joe and quickly updated him on The Foxglove Situation. Like my mother, he quickly Googled it. He, too, began by saying it was probably nothing, and then his voice changed into something new and different after reading the information online.

"Well," he said, and I sensed a logical explanation coming, "we have to assume this isn't the first time this plant has blown into the pool. Right?"

I thought about that. My dad planted it last year. Maybe even the year before. How weird would it be for it to have only lost a bud just this ONE time?

"I don't think we have to assume that at all," I said stubbornly.

"Well, let's say we do," Joe said. "And let's point out that we've been swimming in that water regularly, and none of us has died yet. And let's also point out that the amount of poison in that one tiny flower is probably pretty diluted by the time it reaches your body. IF it even does."

Ugh. Logical people.

"I don't think--" I began.

"Okay, how about this?" he interrupted. "I love Noah more than anything, right?"

"Yes," I said grudgingly, knowing full well where he was going.

"Well, I say it's probably safe to let him swim, and we both know I would not do ANYTHING to put his life in danger."


So I let Noah swim. But later that day, after Joey was done with school and the three of us were back at my mom's and swimming again, guess what? THREE foxglove buds were floating. NOW WHAT????

I didn't want to call my mom or sister again (especially not my sister, who was so angry she posted about it on Facebook), so I just called Joe.

Joey overheard, and immediately began wailing that he was going to die. Was he going to die? He was going to die, wasn't he??

Joe reassured me by saying, "Listen, I AM at work. I can't talk foxglove with you right now."

I hung up the phone, feeling flustered and frustrated. Joey was hopping around going, "The poison is on my foot! I know it!"

Suddenly, Noah's face was right in mine. I looked over at him and he leaned even closer. "Mom," he said loudly but with a gravity that made me think he was about to list all the symptoms of foxglove poisoning because he had contracted it, "this is IMPORTANT!"



The foxglove plant, for your reference. BEWARE.

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