The Lucky Plant

So much has changed. See this plantita here? Many years ago this little plant caused an American-Salvadoran war in our household.

Suegra says this is considered a “lucky” plant back in El Salvador, but it was unlucky for me because Suegra planted it in our yard without permission. For reasons which aren’t clear to me today, I got mad – really mad. I guess it was a boundaries thing. I resented Suegra living with us to begin with, and on top of that, she often redecorated without asking me. I’d go out on an errand and come back to see something incredibly feo she bought at a yard sale, sitting as the new centerpiece on our table. I guess at some point I had enough.

The lucky plant, which at the time looked like a wilted weed in my eyes, had been planted in a prominent spot in the landscaping and it stuck out like a sore thumb. She had even stolen rocks from elsewhere in the yard and made a circle around the pathetic little plant. It looked like a juvenile goldfish burial plot.

“It needs to be moved to the backyard – somewhere I can’t see it – near the air conditioner unit would be good. Some place where it might die,” I said to my husband.

He pleaded with me not to make a big deal. It was a difficult time in our marriage. His mother living with us turned into a sick love triangle – my husband always caught between his mother and me, both of us demanding his loyalty.

In the end, my husband asked his mother to move the lucky plant. I had not fully anticipated the war that erupted. Suegra didn’t speak to me for many days. She told my husband he didn’t wear the pants – started with that familiar refrain, “There are many women in the world, pero madre sólo hay una.”

Suegra moved the plant but she continued to take care of it, watering it in the summer, moving it indoors in the winter – and over the years it survived … and somehow we have, too.

All these years later, I remember that day and wonder why I cared so much. Why I couldn’t just let it go, but it’s past now, I can’t change what happened. I can only learn a lesson from it to carry with me.

Yesterday I noticed the chill in the evening air, whispering that autumn is upon us. We’ll soon have our first frost. I reminded Suegra that it was time to bring the plant indoors. I told her she could put it on the table, as a centerpiece… a daily reminder for me that life is imperfect but given time and a little luck, we can adapt.

21 thoughts on “The Lucky Plant

  1. How sweet! but Bless your heart too. The saying “what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger” comes to mind. I’m sure you’re a much different person, having grown in ways you didn’t imagine, since Suegra came to stay. Sending happy thoughts your way today :)

    • @ Amanda – Seriously, this has been one of the most challenging situations of my life, but the lessons I’ve learned, I can’t even begin to count.

  2. What kind of plant is that? In Mexico, we have a good luck plant too, Albahaca (basil). Most businesses have a plant located at the entrance to bring good fortune to their business.

    My suegro also insisted on placing images of saints and rosaries all over Hubby’s shop. If you can’t beat ’em, you might as well let them have their way! :)

    • @ Leslie – The saints and rosaries are all over my husband’s car, but he doesn’t mind.

      Interesting that basil is considered good luck there. I love the plant – so pretty, smells good and I use it in a lot of recipes. I’ve had one several times but I never manage to keep them alive for some reason.

      My husband says the “lucky plant” pictured above is called, “ruda” (in English, “rue”.)

  3. This is a lovely story. Sometimes things seem so big in the heat of the moment and it’s not until we revisit it that we realize how insignificant it really is. You seem to balance your relationship with your suegra well. I can only imagine how difficult it can be at times.

    • @ Grace – I may balance it well now, (most of the time), but that wasn’t always the case. It makes me wince to even look back on some of the things that happened – not always my fault, but things I could have handled better but just wasn’t mature enough yet at the time. There were some emotional break downs, dark times – I hope it’s all in the past.

  4. Whoever said “Hindsight is 20/20” was pretty smart. I not only wince, but turn many shades of red over my own past behavior and comments. I’ve been irrational, judgemental, bitchy, dominating, weak, and that was just this morning! Hahaha, just playin’, but it does make me monitor “today’s” behavior a little more closely, knoeing that I may regret it deeply. But be patient with your old self, she wasn’t as smart as you. :) Poquito a poquito mujer.

  5. That’s a great story! And a great reminder that all things shall pass. I’ve always believed that we should not make a big deal out of small things, but sometimes it’s easier said than done. We love our suegras…even when they make us crazy.

  6. UGH. Sorry, but this may be reason #35672 that I would have major trouble accepting this “cultural” difference. I do, however, like the conclusion you came to. Hmmm…maybe I need to dejarlo atras. :)

  7. Great story! Sometimes I think that, more than anything, life is a struggle with details.

    Sometimes the “big” things are no-brainers. Por ejemplo, POR SUPUESTO, we would walk hot coals to take care of a sick child/spouse/parent/friend. Heroics in caring for those we love can often feel easy–a natural thing to do.

    But when it comes to a misplaced plant, or rosaries and medals all over our pristine dining room and inside our uncluttered car, well, dealing with such things can be like gritting our teeth as we listen to a fingernail scratching on a chalkboard. Some say, “the devil is in the details,” but I also say “often in details we find the heroic.”

  8. Brilliant writing Senorita Lopez! Again, you’re a bigger person than I am. I’d have stomped on that little plant every day until it died…

  9. This reminds me of when we bought our house and my suegra came to stay with us…. I was working and going to school at the time so the house hadn’t gotten a lot of love as far as decorating.

    One day I came home and found our guest bathroom completely redone. Towels, frames, you name it. It wasn’t ugly but I was so pist that she had done everything without consulting me.

    I called my mom…I was SO angry… she put things in perspective and said to me…

    “hija, ella vive con ustedes?”
    “pues para que estas tan enojada? Cuando ella se vaya tu lo decoras como tu quieras”

    She only comes about once or twice a year. I can’t imagine having her here 24/7! Admire you for being so strong!!!

    The plant looks beautiful!!! ( :

  10. Oh my goodness!!! You’re story took me back some years when my mother-in-law was still alive. We did have sick awkward love triangle going too. I fought her tooth and nail but towards the I gave up. At the time she was very ill and had moved in with us to recover. Tracy, she was driving me to insanity with her demands. Out of frustration, I told her she won and I was moving out. She gracefully move out later that week but told everyone in the family that I had threw her out. Ugh!!! Suegra del infierno. Before she passed away, I had finally learned to let go of my strong hold and let her have her way. I wished we would have had time to figure out a way to make it work for the sake of my children.

  11. “… pero madre sólo hay una.”

    That sounds like a good topic upon which to write. If I had a penny for every time I heard that phrase…

  12. Pingback: Salvadoran Suerte « Latina-ish

  13. Rue plant… I remember the first time ever I smelled it. I was like 5 or 6 years old, and I thought it smelled like rancid pee. My mother used to place it next to the front door, so malas vibras would never get into the house. The reason? Malas vibras don’t love rue smell either.
    Everytime I got home, I protested: “Gosh, that monte simply stinks!!” One day, my mother got enough of my complaints and told me that I didn’t love it because I was the mala vibra of our household. Fair enough, I was about 15 -16 by that time, so… she had been listening my complaints for 10 or more years.

    Now I got used to rue smell, but I’m not particularly fond of it… as it happens to be with my suegra: she just moved back home and I totally understand how challenging it could be, as you said, living in a sick love triangle. Madre sólo hay una. Thanks to God. My husband agrees the most because he loves his mother, but he needs no longer somebody to preach him because his socks and shirts.

    When my suegra moved out from our home and got back to her own house, she cursed me in ways that only venezuelan old ladies can do, and she even tried to end our marriage by acting crazy with Nelson, her son, my husband. Her demands were just childish, even irrational, and we did as you said: we let it go, we let her be. We didn’t pay much attention to her performances, and eventually she gave up. She understood what we knew from day one: she is her mother, and I’m her wife… nobody is replacing nobody.

    Life keept on, and she’s sick now. She needs us, but especially me because she has no daughters to speak about her ailments, her disease… And even when I’m totally willing to take care of her, I’m not totally get used to her ways.

    I think it’s beacause I still haven’t fully recognized that I also need her. My relationship with my own mother has never been comfortable and I think that’s the reason why I have never get along with my friend’s mothers, and with authority figures in general. They are my particular monsters.

    But no, I don’t want to be misunderstood: my suegra isn’t a monster for me, but the contrary: She is my second chance to do it better with mothers. And we have one or two things in common: we both think that rue plant smells like rancid pee… and we both are crazy about Nelson.

    • What a lovely comment. Thank you for sharing something so personal. Abrazos for you and get well wishes for your suegra. I wish you all the best. It’s definitely not an easy relationship to navigate for anyone (the suegra, nuera, or the husband/son.)

      • Gracias, Azury! Muy amable.
        And that’s so true about languages providing other perspectives. I agree 100% :)

      • Tracy, your blog is nothing but delightfull! I love your writing because you offer first-hand experience in multicultural issues in a very friendly way. Even when I don’t live in the US and my husband and I are both venezuelan, we study English and French and we’re crazy enough about languages. We both love the way languages gives us different perspectives from the world, and those differences can make life totally joyful. Thank you for sharing your life with us… God bless your family too.

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