This past weekend, I went to see my college roommate, Jenny, and her husband and four-year-old son in Newport News, Virginia. It had been nine months since she came to see me, over Labor Day Weekend, just before I moved from the Washington D.C. area to Iowa City. That weekend, she came by herself, so two close friends could paint the town without husbands or partners or children in tow.
Even though we already lived in different cities, we knew that once I moved a plane—rather than car—ride away, things would change. We had already gone from sleeping one above the other in bunk beds to separate towns and very different lives, and now we would add another layer of separation to the deal. We hugged, and cried, and Jenny reminded me that I was about to go find happiness, and that AirTran offers cheap flights from Moline, Illinois, to Newport News.
Jenny and I have talked late in the night, many nights, about boys and school and family and politics. But no matter how much we’ve had to say to each other, I’m pretty sure we’ve never talked about gardening.
We’ve talked about flowers before, but usually in context of what bouquet from what boy, not what blossom on what bush in anyone’s yard. But on Saturday, after a rousing two-on-two game of baseball in the back yard, she showed me the gardenia bush on the side of the house. She had recently cut it back, she said, because the lush flowers weighed the branches down until they arched to the ground.
The bush fairly exploded with blossoms, some fresh and white, others bruised and brown and slowly shedding their petals. “I love to cut them and bring them in the house,” she said. “The problem is, they get these little bugs in them.” She took a blossom in her hands, and pried the petals apart. “See? They start out brown, but turn black. I don’t know what they are.”
“I don’t know either,” I said. “How about if I ask the Internet and see what people say?”
She agreed, so we’re taking any and all suggestions. Any thoughts?
On Saturday night, as we drove to Williamsburg for dinner, I told her about my first Iowa winter, including my adventures at –18 degrees Fahrenheit. After she finished being appalled, she mentioned some petunias her mother planted next to their driveway last year. “Our winter was so mild, they survived and are still blooming. I’ll have to show them to you.”
But dinner ensued, and we forgot about the petunias when we got home later that night. On Sunday, as we loaded my bags into the car, she pointed them out to me. “You should take a picture of these and put it on your blog,” she said. “They’re supposed to be annuals, but you can tell everyone they survived a winter in Virginia, and they’re still blooming!”
So I did, and I thought about me and Jenny, and how, when the Dean of Students Office assigns you a roommate your Freshman year of college, they’re likely to be an annual—someone with whom you make do until you find better, closer friends to room with later in college.
But if you’re lucky, you stick together with unexpected hardiness. Next thing you know, you’re inadvertent perennials, blossoming together far longer than you could have ever expected when you first laid down roots in a tiny dorm room.