Why do we call her Charlie?

It started as a joke between J and I.

Having had no experience with any type of gardening before, my first plant was brought home on a whim from a wet market*. There was no label on the plant, and in the thrill of the moment of purchase, I hadn’t even thought to ask what type of plant it was. What I did ask was, does it flower? And if so, what colour should I expect to see?

What a rookie.

A couple of days into being a carer for this plant, I started to feel quite unnerved. I didn’t know how often to water it, how much to water each time, if it needed sun or shade, if it needed a particular type of plant food, the list went on. Basically, all the fundamentals to keeping something alive.

Google didn’t offer much help, though I suppose search results can only be as good as the search questions. My search went something like this:

Small, shrub-like plant, with small green leaves that curl ever so slightly.

White flower plant.

White flower plant in Singapore.

Therefore, without any proper knowledge, all I could do was hope that my dogged attention to the plant would be enough to will it to stay alive. This meant checking on it first thing in the morning, giving it a bit of water, checking on it first thing after work to see if it had died while I was gone, and generally staring at it for a good ten minutes each night. The plant seemed to be doing ok, but I was convinced it would drop dead if I didn’t watch it like a hawk.

After a couple of weeks of this routine, J joined me one night on the balcony, during my usual ‘stare at the plant’ time. He watched the plant for a few seconds, and then yelled:

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Charlie with Lexie

“Charlie! Listen to your mother! Look alive!”

As I write this, I realise it was a ‘you had to be there moment as it doesn’t sound that funny. It was funny though, at least to me, as I realised how obsessive I had become. It then struck me that this was perhaps 1/100th of what it felt like to have a new child. Or 1/5th of what it felt like to have a new pet.

We jokingly referred to her as Charlie in the days that followed, and in time she really became a metaphorical child to me. A living thing I was solely responsible for, who relied on me to survive and whom I could literally shape into maturity.

One year on, Charlie looks alive most days**.

– END –

*A wet market is a type of market common in Asia where you can buy fruit, vegetables, meat, fish, flowers, etc. from different sellers. 

**I have since concluded that Charlie is a double petal water jasmine (wrightia religiosia). I think.


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