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The Mystery of Marve the Malevolent Succulent

| Wednesday, September 1, 2021

‘Tis the season for dorm setup, information tables and free giveaways from various clubs and organizations around campus. As such, I’m reminded of a horror story involving a free succulent and the greatest mystery of my life. Story time.

My first year at Notre Dame, my roommate-of-two-years Meagan and I each brought home a succulent from one of those giveaway events. At the event, we planted little plants in plastic terracotta-esque pots and wrote their names on the side in white sharpie. Meagan named her succulent Elliot and I called mine Marve.

For several months, these succulents sat in our window in Walsh Hall through the autumn and the winter months until January of our first year. We turned out to be pretty poor plant parents and they definitely never grew a millimeter. We kept them in the only spot where they could receive sunlight, but the windowsill was consequently also the place the South Bend cold creeps in during the winter. When we moved out for our first college Christmas break, Meagan and I consulted about what to do with the sickly succulents. Would they survive the three weeks without care? Would they survive a trip home? I think at this point, we had just given up anyway, so we decided to see what fate would do to the unlucky succulents. The last I saw of Marve, he looked very sickly and on his last legs, with dull and sparser leaves than what he started with. With only a little remorse, I left for Christmas break.

Meagan returned to campus before me for the second semester of our first year and she told me our succulents had died over the break. She later described to me how she placed our neglected succulent offspring into our room’s trash bin, tied it up, then placed that trash bag in the third floor’s larger trash bin. I thought no more of Marve for eight months.

Sophomore year began; I moved into Walsh several days before Meagan into our quint on the first floor. Then, on August 23, 2019 (a date marked by a saved Snapchat memory), I wandered into the first floor kitchen and I stopped dead in my tracks, the hair on the back of my neck raised. There, on the windowsill, next to a few other larger potted plants, was Marve. Yes, the very same Marve we threw away. Much of the soil was missing from his pot and he was shorter than before. Barely a few leaves poked out of the soil. Was it some kind of coincidence? No, my own unmistakable and incriminating wobbly handwriting identified the pot as the one and the same succulent I had left to die.

I ran back to my room and immediately sent a video to Meagan. When she moved into Walsh a few days later, we confirmed it was Marve. But how did he end up on that windowsill? How did he find his way out of two trash bags on the third floor and to the first floor kitchen?

I still don’t know, and I don’t think I ever will. If you go into Walsh’s first floor kitchen now, Marve the mysterious marvel is still in that windowsill. Not only is he still alive, now he is thriving, three years from his potting at a McWell event. He has grown tall if not skinny, with many bright green leaves despite his plastic home of scrabbly soil. I must thank whoever who has been caring for him since, although it is possible he is somehow watering himself. He survived not one, but now three South Bend winters, being literally thrown in the garbage, the virtual evacuation of the tri-campus in the spring of 2020 and the literal pandemic.

This is not a metaphor about standing strong against literally all odds or an allegory for resilience in the face of challenge. This is a warning. This is a plea for help. I know every time I look at Marve he knows who I am. I’m the mother who left him to die. If I’m found missing before the night of my graduation, know that it was Marve and I have paid for my sins.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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About Isabella Volmert

Isabella "Issy" Volmert is a junior majoring in English and minoring in theology and journalism, ethics and democracy at the University of Notre Dame. She currently serves The Observer as assistant managing editor. Follow her @ivolmertnews for niche JED Twitter content.

Contact Isabella