Death of a Tomato Plant – Or, The Tomato Plant That Could

The life of the Tomato Plant That Could was something of a miracle.  Last year, my husband and I purchased a bunch of tomatoes-on-the-vine from the grocery store and had managed to eat all but one.  It sat on our kitchen counter for days and days, until we thought it ought to be getting mushy by now.  But instead of getting mushy, something very strange had begun to happen.  See, the tomato had been sitting in the one spot in our house that gets direct sunlight for the better part of a day.  And the sunlight had somehow caused the tomato to start growing SPROUTS!  My tomato was growing new tomato plants!

Astonished, I decided to try and plant the tomato in a pot to see how it did.  So I got a pot and some dirt from the store and planted my sprouting tomato in it.  I set it outside on my balcony to grow.

It did grow.  The little shoots and sprouts began to grow up out of the dirt, until there were too many and I knew it would be too crowded to grow all plants healthily.  So I pulled a few out until just one solitary tomato plant was left.  It grew and grew, and I soon realized that, as a vine tomato, its plant didn’t look like regular tomato plants.  It was lithe and bendy, and should probably have something to climb up.

So I took a couple plastic ties from a top that didn’t need them and tied my tomato plant to our balcony fence.

It grew and grew, and much to my delight, when the time came, it even grew a couple of flowers!  It was such a pleasure to see those little flowers from a random grocery store tomato.  Unfortunately, the plant never grew fruit, but the flowers were enough for me.  ‘Maybe next year,’ I thought.

I cut down the tomato plant once fall came and it withered, and left the tomato in there for another year.  Much to my surprise and delight, earlier this summer I noticed another tomato sprout growing up from the dirt!  There was only one this time, but I promised myself I’d take good care of it, and maybe this year I’d even get tomatoes!  How exciting would that be?

So I put the pot on a sunny part of our balcony, near the fence, and let our very rainy spring and summer do the watering, until 85 degree days came and I had to take the responsibility of watering it myself.  It looked a little bit pathetic, but I promised myself to take good care of it so it would grow.

A couple weeks before June ended, the apartment management told us that they would be repainting the complex.  They said they would be doing our half of the apartments on June 24, 26, and 27, and the other half of the apartments on July 6, 7 and 8.  They asked us to remove all items from the balconies so this procedure could be done.

I removed my tomato plant and three other pots, plus a bag of soil, from the deck and brought them inside.  But June 24, 26, and 27th came and went, and no work was done in our apartment or on any of the others on our side of the complex.  Scratching our heads, my husband and I returned our items to the deck, trusting the apartment management to let us know when they would REALLY be doing the work.

Back on the deck, my tomato plant grew and grew until it got too tall and started bending again.  So I took one of the ties from last year and tied it to the fence again.  I watered it only as often as I remembered, which probably wasn’t enough.  But it grew another 4 inches above the tie, and I began to look forward to seeing little flowers bloom on it again.

Then the terrible day of July 8, 2011 came.  I returned home from picking up my paycheck that Friday.  The first thing I saw was a sign on our neighbor’s door that said they would be doing our apartment on Monday, July 11.  I was glad for the warning and decided to get my stuff off the deck as soon as I got inside.

But when I got inside, I heard all sorts of noise coming from our deck.  Through our half-closed blinds, I saw two men working on our balcony.  I moved closer and saw, to my horror, that the fence was gone–and so was my tomato plant.

Only the pot of dirt remained.  The plant had been entirely chopped off as the fence was removed.

Too horrified to speak, I moved in automatic mode.  I opened the sliding glass door and brought all my pots back in–including the one with a prominent empty spot where the Tomato Plant That Could should’ve been planted.

I cried in the shower over the loss of the plant.  It had been so full of hope and promise!  But it had met an untimely death because of the communication failures of our apartment management.

Eulogy:
Little tomato plant, you were very brave.  You never should have sprouted in the first place, but you did.  You never should’ve grown in our limited balcony sunlight, but you did.  You never should’ve grown in spite of my off-and-on watering, but you did.  Those who murdered you will pay, in the form of a brand-new tomato plant for my deck.  But I will always remember you as the Tomato Plant That Could.

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Filed under Creative Writing, Nonfiction

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