TGIF: Feels Like Home To Me

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Hospitality

I didn’t grow up around plants.

I couldn’t tell you much about mulch, rootstock or pruning.

When most kids were asked to “Water the plants” the Francis kids were asked to “Dust the plants.” Growing up in the Middle East where the weather was not conducive to gardening, silk plants were all the rage. They were consistent, sturdy and provided a nice pop of green in our home.

Back then, I didn’t know that “sturdy” isn’t necessarily an appealing adjective for indoor foliage. I thought the plants were a great return on investment. Easy to maintain, beautiful and durable. If my sister and I knocked over a plant when we were roughhousing, we could just plop it back up. No muss, no fuss. I couldn’t understand why anyone would want to waste their time and money on real plants.

That was before I moved to the Pacific North West. Lush, bejeweled, enchanting PNW.

This was the first time my immigrant family had a house with a yard with actual grass that needed to be tended. We knew nothing about Mother Earth or how to tame her bad hair days. Our neighbours must’ve been tickled pink by the clandestine family meetings in our backyard. All of us, bowing our heads reverently, encircled around the mysterious lawn mower.

Here! Pull this cord.
No. No. I think we have to drag it.
On the count of 3, everybody push!
It looked so easy in the Archie comics…

Two years ago…my then-boyfriend now-husband Kupa introduced me to some of his dear family friends in Seattle.

Here I was, the girl who couldn’t operate a lawn mower meeting Mama Heckt, The Plant Whisperer. At first glance, it seemed like Anne-Marie (fellow SheLoves writer) and I had nothing in common. But the moment I stepped through her doorway I knew I was Home.

Now “home” is a fairly elusive concept, especially for an Indian expatriate, who grew up in the Middle East, relocated to Canada and married a Zambian she met in Portland.

So why did I feel like I was coming home?

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Three steps into Anne-Marie’s home and I’m greeted with a vase full of impossibly beautiful asian pear blossoms, hellebore, evergreen huckleberry, newly budding oak leaf and hydrangea branches.

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Anne-Marie gives me a closer look at the evergreen huckleberry to get a peek at the hidden blossoms….

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….and the asian pear blossoms.

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I slip off my boots, peel off my winter layers and make my way to the bedroom where Kupa dropped off our bags. Sigh. Yet another stunning floral offering. I knelt down beside the turquoise vase to marvel at the cluster of grape hyacinths, easter anemone and stem of heather.

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In the living room, I quickly find myself snuggled up on the couch under Steve’s flannel blanket beside Kupa. Plates of sweet Bartlett pears, crunchy red peppers, sliced turkey and bowl of nachos are laid before us–a late afternoon snack. A cup of rose tulsi tea for me and some chai for Kupa.

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We talk about Justin’s sci-fi novel, our plans to move into a bigger apartment and the baby we’re expecting. All this while, Myrtle the Turtle lazily makes his way across the sunlit floor. (Yes. That’s his real name!)

Later that afternoon, we bundle up into the minivan and take a scenic drive past Greenlake Park where Anne-Marie likes to rollerblade on a sunny day. The same park where Steve charmed Anne-Marie to dance atop a garbage can on a midnight stroll over two decades ago–the beginning of their romance.

We find parking and amble our way up the street to Mighty O’s Donuts and buy some donuts to go. We cross the street to Zoka’s–a coffee shop where Anne-Marie usually meets her writing group. We snag a table that serendipitously appears. We order drinks. Our table is now peppered with lattes, lavender mocha, chai, americano and donuts. Between bites of chocolate and cinnamon donuts we talk about church, family and parenting.

After an hour of conversation, we stop at Theo’s Chocolate, where we “taste” a shameful amount of chocolate samples and buy an assortment of caramels to share after dinner.

Before heading home we make a quick stop at the store to buy steaks for dinner. Kupa and I meander towards each other. We lock hands and kiss in front of some dessert wine.

There is something about being around these wonderful folks that helps me see my husband.

“I believe the nicest and sweetest days are not those on which anything very splendid or wonderful or exciting happens but just those that bring simple little pleasures, following one another softly, like pearls slipping off a string.” — L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables, #2

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Lately, I’ve been wondering if there is a link between hospitality and gardening.

H. Jackson Brown Jr. was onto something when he said, “Remember that children, marriages, and flower gardens reflect the kind of care they get.”

Perhaps digging in the dirt cracks opens a portal to healthy children, connected community and asian pear blossoms. What if weeding, pruning and watering, even where there is seemingly no fruit, is the discipline required to live a meaningful life? Maybe kneeling in the soft earth is the secret posture of humility necessary to nurture seed, life and love.

Love you more than Red Velvet Strawberry Shortcake.

xoxo,
Teen

Gabrielle Aplin, Home

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Tina Francis
My name is Tina. Loved ones call me: Teen. Words are my chocolate. Music, my caramel. Photography, my bread. Girlfriends, my butter. Confession: Some girls dream about Manolo Blahniks or their next Hermes bag. Not me. I dream of freshly baked bread, perfectly barbecued meat & steaming bowls of Pho. My dream lover *cue Mariah Carey song* is someone who would read out a menu to me in Barry White’s baritone voice. I celebrate food, ask for help, interrupt conversations, laugh and cry hard, acknowledge the elephant in most rooms, fight for the underdog and believe in the power of storytelling. I was born and raised in Dubai and currently live in the beautiful city of Vancouver, known for some of the best sushi in the world.
Tina Francis
Tina Francis