A Heartwarming Story Of A Green Thumb Son Working To Help His Brown Thumb Mom

Every family has one: a person that strikes fear into plant life from coast to coast. A person that leaves a trail of wilted leaves and botanical destruction wherever they lay their hands. The proverbial “brown thumb” is someone who can’t seem to keep anything but themselves alive for any discernable amount of time. Allow me to introduce you to the Brown Thumb in my life: my mother.

In honor of Mother's Day weekend, a very special story about a Mother-Son relationship and the lengths a Green Thumb will go to help out a Brown Thumb.

A Life-Long Problem

The way my mom kills off plant life, I am surprised I made it past infancy. I must have stumbled backwards through childhood because her wake of plant murder is so absolute it’s terrifying. She’s probably going to come across this, so all jokes aside, she’s a gem. She is just a horrible plant parent, no matter how much I try to coach her. I have tried to hold her hand, but when I leave her house, I can’t control what she will do to those poor defenceless plants. It defies logic. Let me share some of my favorite plant assassinations from this past year.

The Money Tree

A "Money Tree" plant (Pachira Aquatica). Green pachira aquatica leaves on beige background.

I had this Money Tree growing since the beginning of my last relationship four years ago. It went from a sapling to a ten-foot monster and had foliage the size of dinner plates. I gifted it to her country house, advising that I would take care of it when I came over. Instead, several weeks later, I saw that Mr. Money Tree had been decapitated and was now stem and soil. A shadow of its past grandeur just sitting there, stuffing in its bowels like he was in some war movie. Holding back my emotional damage of the moment, I asked, “why?”. She responded incredulously and without a hint of sarcasm, “It was too tall; I want it shorter, and all the leaves were all over the place.” The plant gods have allowed this poor injured soldier to start re-vegging. Still, I think it will live in fear of my mother for the rest of its days under the sun.

The Tomato Seedlings

A single tomato hagns from a withered tomato plant that is dying.

An old Italian man handed me down some tomato seeds. If you know anything about tomatoes, that’s where you want to get your seeds. The dirtier the undershirt, the better the source, in my experience. Some lovely Roma tomatoes, perfect for tomato sauce. I was excited. Mother started making her seedling demands early in the season and wanted a few to murder. I reluctantly handed over two of the weaker babies knowing full well these tomatoes wouldn’t make it out of the crib. On one of my regular visits, I saw the tomatoes from across the balcony and just shook my head in disbelief. She tied them up like they were involved in some Sato Masochistic bondage experiment gone wrong. The rope looked like it could dock a pirate ship and was choking the life out of them. The soil was dryer than the cocaine on Scarface’s desk. They hadn’t seen water since I left them. She keeps lying that she waters. If she is watering, it must be with a thimble or perhaps the sweat dripping off her brow as she assassinates anything with a root system. She currently has two tomatoes, and it’s because I intervened like social services to give those kids a fighting chance in this world.

The Garden Herbs

Let’s not forget her philosophy on herbs. Oh boy, the goddamn herbs. Let’s put aside her tossing all last year’s herbs off the balcony because fall was coming, and she wanted to “clean off the deck”. Thyme and basil, the size of my chest, sent flying across the property like a wilted fern. No pesto that year. She insisted on growing her own basil this year. Perhaps she was sick of stealing mine. I offered to handle it, but she was persistent; spring gardening fever was in full effect. She purchased her genetics at the Dollar Store like a real first-year gardener and used a pot the size of my belly button to house it. When I saw it, my inner green thumb sprung into action, put that sucker in a big pot with some fertilizer and vermiculite and fed it. Because you know damn well she didn’t water it. It doesn’t end there. I returned the following week like a good son checking in on Ms Geranium Genocide. She had put that basil back into a pot too small to grow enough to garnish a plate of pasta, stating that she “didn’t like the look” of the pot the plant needed. Needless to say, no pesto this year.

Green basil plant in a small pot on a windowsill.

I could go on and on describing how she can kill a cactus in under a week just by looking at it. How I will find plants in complete darkness in corners of the house she never visits praying for some vitamin D like some sort of reverse vampire. How she aimlessly adds 20-20-20 nutrients to counteract her botanical negligence. Some people are just not fit to be nature’s keepers. My mother may have a brown thumb but has talents in other areas. Such as an Olympic level of patience for me when I was younger. This lady can survive an Apocalypse. It’s just too bad she is the Apocalypse for anything with Chlorophyll.

We must coexist as best we can. The Brown and Green Thumbs act like a sort of Ying and Yang, keeping everything balanced. Her Brown Thumb continues to guide me through life and still drives me to the Emergency room when I cut my hand open, chopping down Grapefruit Kush at 7 am. My green thumb keeps us in zucchini and peppers and offers her a source of pride. Nobody gets down in the garden like her son Regi Oneton, and I can see out of the corner of my eye it makes her smile. She’s happy my thumb is green, and my trigger finger isn’t red. I will do my best to rescue all plant life from her clutches. I shall keep the pesto flowing like a river. Support your local Brown Thumb; they need all the help they can get.

Love you, Mom, and Happy Growing.


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Regi Oneton is a multi-disciplinary artist and daytime Executive. A member of Socan since his first Album release at the age of 20. Self-taught audio engineer and self-proclaimed studio rat. A late-blooming street artist and painter whose works can be found hanging in the offices of Burton and Vans Canada. Long-time contributor to the Under Pressure Graffiti Festival and lover of the Arts. As the years plow forward, he has added botanical enthusiast/plant father to his litany of passions. His interests include writing and spending too much time looking at his phone.