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Rebekah’s (New) Pandemic Diary – Entry #2: The Case of the Money Tree

19 Jan
Photo by Rachel Claire on Pexels.com

Wow. It has been a year and we are only 19 days in. In other news…

My plants are dying. Not all of them, of course, but we have had a few high-profile casualties in the house recently. First, there was the small aloe and the burro’s tail that succumbed to some sort of powdery mildew that, try as I might, I couldn’t cure them of. They didn’t actually perish, as much as we had to do a pre-emptive disposal to save other plants from their same ill fate. (RIP, pals.) Then, we had a jumper. A high-shelf Dracaena trifasciata, or snake plant that, unbeknownst to us due to its altitudinal location, was running low on soil. A little bit of water and – TIMBER! – the larger portion of the plant disconnected from its roots and tumbled dramatically to the ground, it’s beautiful, stiff leaves lying there, all of the plant’s hard work over the previous months undone as a result of caretaker oversight. And finally, the Money Tree. Holding on by the tiniest of threads. Part of me feels like maybe I should part with it, seeing as how sparse its leaves are, but the other part of me feels immense guilt giving up on the poor thing. After all, it’s my fault it is faring so poorly. It’s current state due to some sort of err in water, sunlight or nutrients. It seems only right that I stick it out and try to bring it back from the brink, right?

The answer to that question might seem simple to you. Of course I should stick it out. I can’t just give up on a plant because it isn’t as beautiful and full as it once was. I can’t throw it out – abandoned like so many plants before it, doomed to rot in a dumpster. You might go so far as to remind me of the aloe (not the powdery mildew one, but it’s parent plant) that I rescued from beside a mailbox, barely alive. The aloe which now is so large that one can hardly see the pot in which it lives. The aloe that I am certain would take over the entire house if it got the chance. That aloe would have perished had I not seen through to its potential and carted it home. The Money Tree, however, is a more complicated case. Because, and I know this might sound crazy to you, I have long feared that the Money Tree is cursed.

The origin of the Money Tree goes back quite some time, to the summer of 2016. It was before the ill-fated election and the horrors that followed; before I packed up my bags and moved myself to New Orleans for the better part of a year. It was while I was still toiling away on the weekends at a bar too lucrative to quit, but too soul-crushing not to. I was, I will now say, at an impasse. An impasse that in true Rebekah fashion could only be dealt with by embarking on a weeks or months long change of locale. The Money Tree was a gift from my bar back which, on its face, seems like a really nice thing until I tell you that he was legitimately the worst bar back I have ever worked with. He wasn’t a bad dude, per se. But he did used to split during a busy night, take the train into Manhattan to do who knows what and then return, fully expecting to be paid in full. In hindsight, this was more an issue of poor management, something this guy was just taking full advantage of, but still. It grinded my gears. Which, also in true Rebekah fashion, I made a point of telling him.

So imagine my surprise when one day, after I told him how rude it was for him to take a 45 minute cigarette break when he was supposed to be restocking liquor and changing the overflowing trashcan so we could continue serving drinks uninterrupted, he appeared in the bar with a brand new bodega-bought Money Tree, complete with a small bow. It was for me. Ever a sucker for plants I accepted, making a point of telling him, with a slight smile, that no amount of Money Trees would erase his reputation as the shittiest bar back of all times. He had won me over, at least a small bit. I took the Money Tree home, gave it a new pot, and we co-habitated (minus the time it was watered by roommates in my absence) for the next 4 1/2 years.

This Money Tree flourished! It grew so healthy and strong I was forced to upgrade its pot, affording it ever more room. All the while, I was stymied by all manner of things. Life, the administration, myself, this god damn pandemic. Always a money saver, I found myself in a precarious financial situation. My time in New Orleans, however mentally restorative, was not exactly economically sound. Month by month I depleted the money I had put away ever so slowly since college and in June of 2017 I returned to New York City, months later than planned, vowing to never work a night shift again and, maybe, to get out of bartending all together. The former was relatively easy, though financially precarious. The latter took a damn pandemic. This past November, I got a new job. And wouldn’t you know it, coinciding with my acceptance of this new position, the Money Tree, previously unstoppable in its expanse, began dropping leaves. My fortune reflecting its misfortune, and vice versa. I look at it now, struggling to hang on, growing new, puny branches in an effort to exhibit some hope in an otherwise arid existence. And so I wonder, was this Money Tree the embodiment of my misfortune all along?

So I ask again, what am I to do with it? Can it be rehabilitated? Will its premature disposal tie me to it for all of eternity? Or am I putting too much meaning onto this gift that was, perhaps, simply meant as a friendly gesture from a misguided kid? Am I thinking too deeply into it? Most likely. So in the meantime, I gave it some water and angled it more towards the light in hopes that we can achieve prosperity together – it in the form of leaves and me, well, in the hope that we all have brighter days ahead. Tomorrow morning, barring another violent insurrection, we will have a peaceful transition of power and it is then that we can truly get to work. Perhaps this change in fortune will be the final death knell of my Money Tree, or maybe it will turn things around as well, day by pain staking day.

Rebekah’s (New) Pandemic Diary: Entry #1 – The Salt on My Windows

3 Jan

This is entry one of, I hope, many. None of them planned. They will each represent where I am at in a given moment with the goal of sharing my feelings, rather than suffering in them alone. I hope you start documenting, too. Whether to share, or for just yourself. I am always open to read your thoughts so comment or feel free to email them to franklyrebekah@gmail.com. They will be safe with me.

If reading this is too much for you, please skip. The last thing I want to do is make anyone feel more overwhelmed than you undoubtedly already do. I am just hopeful that by sharing my honest feelings, some people feeling similarly will feel a little less alone. And, in turn, so will I.

And with that, let us begin.


It is Sunday, January 3rd and I have hardly left my house since the New Year. The sky has largely been overcast and honestly, walking outside and knowing that we are still in the crush of this feels like too much to bear. It feels better to stay inside, pacing back and forth between the two rooms of my apartment, petting my cats and pretending that when the calendar went from 2020 to 2021 everything magically changed. Since I’ve been inside here quite a bit, I am going to tell you a little bit about my house so it feels as though you are here with me, hanging out. (Thinking about that makes me a little sad – because I miss you – but also smile, because wouldn’t it be so magical if you could just….come over?)

I am sitting at the table in my kitchen, sometimes glancing to the side and out some windows which, I have been noticing over the past few days, are dirty with the salt that was kicked up after the recent snowstorm. It gives the impression that it is always raining – the salt stains are reminiscent of the raindrops that accumulate during a light spring rain, or the proof left over from a summer storm. I can look at it and think about how dreary it is – the overcast sky, some windows that look like they’re always in the midst of some inclement weather – or I can focus on hope, on rain as a rejuvenating force. It really depends on where my mind is at whether I land on despair or promise. What doesn’t change is that a few times I day I meander over to the front door, flip the lock and swing it open to see if it is rain on the window after all, and that the salt is just distorting reality. Sometimes it is.

I then let my eyes wander to my side of the glass, to the plants that clamber and grow towards the light of the sun, however uncommon its appearance has been recently. For them, the pandemic never happened. They continue to grow, undeterred. One of them even has a flower, a red, waxy kind of thing that won’t die until a new one has grown to take its place. I find a lot of comfort in its longevity and predictability – I know a flower’s time is nearing its end when a new stalk starts springing up, eager to inherit the spotlight. Then I get treated with a new splash of red, holding space until the next one appears.

It makes me think of last spring; back when this thing was just starting to truly alter our reality, back when we didn’t know what the next months would hold. We were full of fear for what our city was enduring but also, in my case at least, a bit of hope – hope that the rest of the country would take our plight as an example and do what they could to avoid our fate. We now know that didn’t happen, not even close. But back then, on those first warm days, Eric and I washed the windows to let the light pour in. I stood, rag and cleaning solution in hand, face covered, and cleaned all the grime from the previous year. It’s amazing how much filth can gather, how it can trick the eye. We think we are looking through something crystal clear but it is somehow distorted – it is our eyes and our brains that let us see beyond all that. I remember feeling as though I had cleansed my little corner of the world only to see my work undone over time by countless cars and street cleaners. The hours spent inside gazing longingly out the windows eventually turned into gazing at the glass itself. And noticing, for the first time ever, these salt deposits that probably spend winter perched on the windows every year. I can’t wait to wash it off.

And now, sharing this with you, I feel anticipation for the warm weather and the hopefulness of spring – however far away that might feel right now. I’m excited for our little potted maple tree to grow new leaves that, ultimately, will get burned by the sun. I am reminded that I want to buy an umbrella for our small “patio,” to provide the tree, and myself, some respite from the unyielding light. I hope that our rosemary bush, finally established, will last through the winter – I choose to ignore the climate implications of this. And I so badly wish that when the crocuses and tulips start pushing through the dirt in early spring, that we too enter into a season of rebirth, rather than the unnecessary sickness, pain and death that continued with the arrival of spring last year.

But for now, I am going to force myself outside for some fresh air. These windows will be here when I get back.