Expectations versus Hopes and The Rubber Tree Plant

We saw a show about Sammy. He autographed this book for my daughter (she took piano lessons at the time).

The idea is to have high hopes. This is not the same thing as high expectations, which are to be avoided.

It's late March and that means that my parents will soon be returning from their winter home in Florida.

I met with my brother and sister-in-law Sunday, late in the afternoon to bond and shmooze in the burbs (it feels so different, hanging out at a StarBucks, not working on a Sunday afternoon). Little Bro asked a point of clarification, "They're coming home when?"

Wednesday, I'm pretty sure.

"Great. That's what I thought, too."

But today, when I pulled into their driveway to bring in some groceries, a black sportscar swerved to the curb. I startle easily.

A middle-aged, friendly woman in a parka rolled down her window and flashed a big smile! "Hi!" she sang out. "They're coming home tomorrow, right?"

Uh, Wednesday, I think.

"No, tomorrow. Tuesday. It's the Levines who are coming home on Wednesday. I'm Deb, that's what everyone calls me, but my real name is Devorah. I'm their mail carrier." (I changed her name, FYO, and the Levines, of course, are not real Levines.)

Oh, I say. They love you. They love you more than they love me.

"Don't be silly."

No, seriously, I say. They do speak very highly of you. And I personally am in awe. Thank you so much for taking care of the mail while they're gone, making sure they get it, for making the whole relationship so, personal. It's important to them.

Devorah brushes that off and tells me how my parents can't stop bragging about their kids. I'm pleased to have finally met her. Sort of a kindred spirit, you know, a person like that, who makes sure your parents get their mail, who talks to your parents. Mom says she's got a PhD or something similar, but prefers to deliver the mail.

We can all understand.

Anyway, my job while they're away is to water the plants and run the water, check that the pipes haven't frozen. They never have, but it's important to check, because if I don't, for sure, they will.

A phone conversation with my mother goes like this:

Me: I was at the house today.

Mom: Did you see any signs of mice?

Me: No.

Mom: Ladybugs?

Me: No.

Mom: Nothing?

Me: No sign of lower life. But the plants don't look so good, to tell you the truth.

Mom: I don't care. That's your father's problem.
I swept up a bit, wiped the floor, kicked up the heat. Inside the kitchen I could hear the rain start to trickle on the sky light. My father put in a skylight, one of those plexiglass ceiling bubbles, when he first built the house, nearly 55 years ago. As soon as those things were invented, for sure, he cut a big hole in the ceiling. It's the sunniest spot in the house. We looked for stars at night.

Saves on electricity, he'd say.

I reset the alarm, closed up the house, and took the garbage with me, mostly dead leaves, empty bottles of water swiped from the fridge, and the remains of a rubber tree plant that didn't make it through the winter. I had to take it with me because the garage is armed, too.

So there I am sitting in the car with a broom and a bag of dead leaves to my right (pic above). I flick on the radio and hear Simon and Garfunkle singing that song, Book Ends. I get that autonomic sad, nostalgic feeling. You know the one. Remember the lyrics? Old friends. . .

And it's raining. I take a look at the broom and the dustpan, the rubber tree plant,* squint through the raindrops on the passenger window and think,



* A couple of years ago I took my job of watering the plants too seriously and drowned one of them. FD and I walked into the house to drop off groceries for them at the end of the season, and there it was, this huge rubber tree plant that had made it through the winter but crashed to the ground, apparently sometime that week, lifeless.

It's a terrible thing, walking in on a lifeless plant sprawled on the family room floor.

So I sang. I mean, what choice does one have?
Oops there goes another rubber tree, Oops there goes, another rubber tree. Oops there goes another rubber tree plant. Ker plop!
We popped it into a black plastic body bag and carried it outside, feeling very guilty, then threw it into the trunk to dispose of it someplace else. Leaving it on the curb seemed suspicious to me.

This year I know I didn't overwater the plants, if anything, I neglected them, and one of them snapped in two, simply snapped. Or maybe it was a ladybug that knocked it down.

So Dad, I'm sorry about that tree. But ya' know, the words to the song should give you chizuk (that's Hebrish for strength).

You might remember the movie, A Hole in the Head, 1959, surely he does, and the song, High Hopes, written by Jimmy Van Heusen & Sammy Cahn. Frank Sinatra sings it to a bunch of little kids in the movie. Here's a YouTube video courtesy of 16 year old Tom, who plays soccer, darts, and a bit of tennis and lives in Ireland.

In the movie, Frank tells the kids, Have fun now, boys and girls. Relax.
Then they sing the song::
Next time you're found with your chin on the ground
There's a lot to be learned so look around
Just what makes that little ole ant
Think he'll move that rubber tree plant?
Anyone knows an ant can't
Move a rubber tree plant

But he's got hi-i-igh hopes, he's got hi-i-igh hopes
He's got high apple pi-i-ie-in-the-sk-y-y hopes
So, any time you're gettin' low, 'stead of lettin' go, just remember that ant
Oops, there goes another rubber tree plant
Oops, there goes another rubber tree plant
Oops, there goes another rubber tree plant

When troubles call and your back's to the wall
There a lot to be learned that wall could fall

Once there was a silly old ram
Thought he'd punch a hole in a dam
No one could make that ram scram
He kept buttin' that dam
'cause he had hi-i-igh hopes, he had hi-i-igh hopes
He had high apple pi-i-ie-in-the-sk-y-y hopes
So, any time your feelin' bad, 'stead of feelin' sad, just remember that ram
Oops, there goes a billion-kilowatt dam
Oops, there goes a billion-kilowatt dam
Oops, there goes a billion-kilowatt dam

A problem's just a toy balloon, they'll be bursted soon
They're just bound to go pop
Oops, there goes another problem ker-plop
Oops, there goes another problem ker-plop
Oops, there goes another problem ker-plop


Jack Steiner said…
My son had to sing this song for a school performance. For three weeks I heard this little squeaky voice rehearse.

Am I a bad father for saying that I had high hopes the show would come sooner than later.
Anonymous said…
Uh, Therapydoc, I hate to break this to you, but an ant can't move a rubber tree plant.
therapydoc said…
And how, exactly, do you know this?

I realize that there are different ways of knowing, but as a social scientist, I feel I have a right to know.

No disrespect and I don't mean to put you on the spot.
Anonymous said…
So you're talking about lowering expectations, but keeping hopes up.
therapydoc said…
That's the general idea. But you have to remember that when people are depressed, "keeping hopes up" is a joke. It's really hard, and even if you try to believe it, you have to wait it out before you will believe it.

Then, it's like, well of course I've got high hopes. Why doesn't everyone?
Anonymous said…
Personally , I've only heard this song performed by Laverne and
Shirley .I'm sure that Sinatra couldnt touch that .
But I'm glad to see the sun start shining on the blogosphere again.
Good post TD !
Anonymous said…
I think you could have resuscitated
that plant . Did you try CPR ?
Margo said…
As long as it wasn't the DATE PALM promised to me! It's bad enough you've obviously pilfered my autographed Sammy Cahn piano book.
therapydoc said…
Finders keepers. But he did sign it over to you, dear, so when you visit, pilfer it back.

Or maybe wait until you get a piano.
Anonymous said…
Not bad article, but I really miss that you didn't express your opinion, but ok you just have different approach
Anonymous said…
This is my first visit here, but I will be back soon, because I really like the way you are writing, it is so simple and honest

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