Guilty Basil

Jan 22, 2021

May 2006 (I basically don't have any photos by myself during this time period)

This morning I woke up before the rest of my family. Even though I had things I needed to get done, I stayed in bed for a few minutes and let my thoughts wander. They landed on a memory that comes up occasionally and never fails to leave me feeling guilty.

When I was a junior in college, I had to take a technical writing class. In spite of its dry-sounding name, I actually enjoyed it a lot. Among other things, we learned how to put together a resume, wrote a long research paper about something in our field (mine was on the composer, Clara Schumann, and I saved my teacher's comment that said mine was "the best of the bunch"), and composed a personal essay. 

We also had to write an article for children that taught a new skill. To help us grasp the format and reading level, our teacher showed us a few articles from Highlights. At the time, I was attempting to grow some herbs in one of the windows of my tiny apartment.  I thought, Why don't I write an article about growing basil from seeds? I called the article, "Pizza's Secret Ingredient," and I thought it came together nicely. 

After the articles had been graded, our teacher asked us to give him a clean copy. He wanted to mail them to the submissions office of Highlights. I protested. I told my teacher that I had some actual basil growing at home, and I wanted to take step-by-step photos to submit with my article.

He said, "Okay, but promise me you'll mail it yourself." I believe he even gave me the Highlights address  so I would have it.

I said, "I promise." 

You know where this is going, right?

That was fourteen and a half years ago. I never mailed "Pizza's Secret Ingredient." And basil has been haunting me ever since.

I can tell you that I honestly had every intention of submitting it. I have the photos to prove it. They were taken over a series of several weeks during May and June in 2006. But they didn't look very professional, and the further I got into growing my own herbs, the more I felt like a total novice who had no business giving growing tips (and nearly fifteen years and many dead plants later, I can confirm this fact). Also, getting the photos printed was a huge hassle (or at least felt like one). I often thought about just mailing in the article without the photos, but I couldn't do that either because the whole reason I had held onto it instead of mailing with all of my classmates was for the photos. 

I'm sure my teacher never gave this another thought after he let me keep my article. He most certainly doesn't wake up early in the morning and think, I wonder if that student kept her promise and sent in her article to Highlights?

But I think about it. Not incessantly. But every once in awhile. And it gnaws at me. I'm a person who keeps my promises. If I say I will do something, then by golly, I'll do it. 

Now that you've heard my confession, what do you think I should do? Try to dig up my old article and submit it (I have a vague memory of maybe attempting to do this several years ago but finding the submission process to be different than it was in 2006)? Try to remember my teacher's name and track him down so that I can apologize for my dishonesty? Let it go because, in the long run, it's really not that big of a deal? Keep attempting to grow basil and gift it to friends and neighbors as penance? What do you think? 

(And hopefully, this post hasn't made you lose all faith in me and my ability to follow through!

One of the infamous photos, demonstrating how to prune basil (you can see why I couldn't possibly submit this)


  1. Oh, the things we carry! I also have a mental list of random regrets that resurface on occasion to haunt me. For benign things of the distant past I try to focus on forgiving myself and letting go. And if this incident caused anyone to lose all faith in you, I’d be a lot more worried about them than you.

  2. I have one like this too, it’s too long to write here but one time I laid the story out for Matt and told him how embarrassed I still was about my failure and then my failed attempts at righting the situation and he said “but don’t you get it? You’re not that person anymore. You wouldn’t do that now.“ So, the Amy of today would’ve submitted the article. And the Amy 14 1/2 years ago wanted to but didn’t. But she was a different girl. Put it in a bubble and blow it away! Love this, love you.


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