Showy Lady Slipper

I took Cameron, Justin and Alex to the University of Minnesota Landscape Arboretum this morning. They convinced me to first let them take the tram tour and the driver was very nice and knowledgeable and at the end of the tour pointed out the easiest route to find the Showy Pink Lady Slippers that were in bloom. He practically said that if we didn’t go see them we’d have him to deal with.

Being a native Kansan I didn’t know until this year that the Showy Pink Lady Slipper was the Minnesota state flower and that it was a protected species, meaning it’s illegal to dig them up or pick the flowers. They are a rare species of orchid and it can take up to 16 years for a plant to fully mature. I know all this because Cameron is my resident nature expert and it was he who wanted us to go look for them a few weeks ago when the yellow variety was in bloom.

When we left the tram, we walked into the woods on the trail that the tour guide showed us. Cameron and Justin went ahead of Alex and me. Cameron found the flowers a little way into our walk and was calling me to come see them. Alex and I caught up just as a man on another path was yelling at Justin, “Hey! It’s illegal to pick those, you know!”

I looked over and sure enough Justin had one of the yellow flowers in his hand, ready to give it to me as a gift. I pulled him away from the flowers and told him that he needed to stay on the path and not touch the flowers. Meanwhile the man’s wife started in on us, “Those are the state flower, you’re not supposed to pick them!”

Then the man said, “You’re not the only ones in the world.”

Huh. Enlightening. I had always assumed that I was and that the world revolved around me. This news was quite a blow.

“I’m sorry,” I said, “He’s only four, I didn’t realize he was that close to them.”

“Well, that’s why you need to stay near them!” the man said, his tone becoming more harsh.

“You need to calm down,” I said, “He didn’t mean to hurt anything.”

“They are too! Look at him now, he’s leaning on that fence, the whole thing could fall over!” he shouted at me.

“Look at her, she has no control over them,” the wife said, I could almost hear her clucking her tongue at me.

“I guess you can report me to the DNR then,” I fired back.

“I think I’ll go tell the staff what you are doing out here,” he said. “Do you even know these kids?”

“I think you need to relax,” I said, as I gathered up the kids, dropped the floral contraband back into the wild and moved them along before this confrontation further escalated.

I guess I just don’t understand the point of that whole exchange. My child did something wrong. I acknowledged it, he was not doing it again. Why the need to further berate me about it? Was I supposed to frog march him to a park ranger and turn him in? He acted as if we were out there just hacking away all the lady slippers with a fucking machete.

And so my weekend ends as it began, with someone beating me down over something that I know was wrong without any opportunity to defend myself or atone for my actions. I guess my message to this gentleman would be, number one, don’t judge lest ye be judged. I doubt you are perfect, sir. And secondly I dare you to try to parent four kids under the age of 10 and watch over their each and every move. I guess in the future instead of trying to do something educational and healthy by getting out into the world to explore and hike, I’ll just park them in front of the TV all day where they won’t bother anyone or anything.

People. They’re the worst.

© 2010

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