Botany

Botany: (n) the scientific study of plants

“Old Lady Martinson.”Dictionary B

That’s what we called her because we were young, cruel and indifferent to the feelings of anyone who wouldn’t giggle at our silly jokes.

I knew her because she occasionally hired young boys to do chores, offering a quarter for what we deemed was worth a dollar.

She had lots of cats. You didn’t need to see the cats to know this. It just required you being “nosy.”

The smell was horrible.

She was also rather odd (which, as I look back at it, I am not so sure is true, considering that when you’re in your early teens, “odd” is anything that doesn’t fit into your two-square-inch box of understanding).

But I do have one solid memory–she loved to lecture about botany.

She told me she used to teach it in college. To prove her point, she constantly talked to the plant life in her large, unkempt, stale-smelling house.

One day she took me on a tour of her various vines, plants and ferns. As she pointed out each one, she offered a greeting, uttered a name and mustered a bit of encouragement.

She spoke to them.

I was spooked–I thought she was going to have a spasm or attack me with a butcher knife like I had seen in one old movie.

She didn’t.

But it was when she introduced me to her African violets and began to sing to them in mumbo-jumbo that I realized it was time to go.

I think plants are wonderful.

I think we should study them.

I think they are essential to life on Planet Earth.

But I also think we should not “chat them up.”

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Banshee

Banshee: (n) in Irish legend, a female spirit whose wailing warns of an impending death in a house.Dictionary B

Although I am often surprised by Webster’s true definition of a word, this particular rendition really took my breath away.

It’s because when I was a child, I had an aunt who screamed at the children running in a room, telling us to settle down and stop acting like a “bunch of wild banshees.”

I did not know what a banshee was, nor did I care to ask her to explain. I just assumed that banshees were children who were having fun, which for some reason or another, drove this old lady crazy.

  • I knew “banshee” was not good.
  • I knew it was an insult.
  • Just like I privately knew, in my young spirit, that when my aunt used the words hillbilly, worthless slut, wetback and nigger, that she probably wasn’t being complimentary.

So in a sense, banshee became associated to me with the word nigger. In other words, I knew it was bad and I knew I didn’t want to be one, since it made my aunt so pissed off.

Oh, yes, did I fail to mention? She thought that the black people in America–the niggers–were just as uncontrolled as we banshees.

So I grew up a confused young man who was offered a lexicon of terms, which if I accidentally used in public, my parents–and aunt–would quickly silence me, expressing their displeasure over my timing.

I was a child of Middle America, instructed in “public talk” and “private talk” … cautioned to never mix the two.

 

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