Posted in Family

Rhubarb Leaves of Death: Family Mysteries Revealed

Grandy and Elena Grace slicing strawberries… (They go great with Rhubarb Death-Cake!)

When we arrived at my parents’ house Saturday evening, my mom had her old recipe of rhubarb cake ready for us. She used to grow rhubarb in our back yard when we were little, just along the walkway through the yard, and my sister and I both burst out with our remembered terrors regarding that rhubarb plant.

Mother had warned us that the leaves were poisonous. She meant, of course, that we shouldn’t EAT them. Each of us, however, had believed for all those years that we shouldn’t TOUCH them. They tended to spread across the sidewalk, and both of us would leave the sidewalk to skirt their spread, giving them a wide berth and wondering all the while why on earth she would keep such a kid-trap in the middle of our yard. We were also—given our hyper-sensitive awareness of the Rhubarb Leaves of Death—somewhat wary when that same plant made it to our dinner table in the form of her (delicious!) rhubarb cake…

Our poor mother never realized, until this weekend, that we had misunderstood her cautionary warning and lived in terror of her harmless vegetables all those years. It’s moments like these that make family gatherings so priceless… And it’s also the magic of siblings—no one in the world except my Sister shares my exact experience of growing up. Deadly rhubarb and all.

Family! (Sadly, minus Kapena, who didn’t arrive until after Kadi & Scott left.) Left to Right: Me, Elena Grace, Keoni, & Christian; Grandy & Boboo [my parents]; Kadi [my sister] & Scott [her hubby]… We’re trying to decide if Boboo were wearing his Regular Face in the “Goof” picture, or his Goof-Face in the “regular” picture… :)


I am... a writer, an explorer, a coffee-drinker, a recovering addict, a barefoot linguist, a book-dragon ("bookworm" doesn't cover it), a raconteur, a sailboat skipper, a research diver, a tattooed scholar, a pirate, a poet, a spiritual adventurer, a photographer, a few kinds-of-crazy, a joyful wife, a mom... a list-maker! :)

38 thoughts on “Rhubarb Leaves of Death: Family Mysteries Revealed

  1. So funny! A while back, Evan dropped a BIG cookie on the floor, and I shouted “five-second rule!” He immediately shoved the WHOLE thing in his mouth. I was all, “what’d you do THAT for?!” He thought the five-second rule meant you had to pick it up and eat it all IN five seconds!

    Your family is gorgeous!! And, your father’s face is like an exact copy of the first pic — I’d want to know how he does THAT. ;)


    1. Like the 5-second-rule, I wonder now what misunderstandings I’ll hear about from MY kiddos down the line… ;)


  2. Rhubarb cake sounds good. You’ll have to send me the recipe. I make a strawberry rhubarb pie. :) My own rhubarb story–my ex wanted to get rid of the rhubarb plant, so when tilling the garden, he tilled the rhubarb too. Well, the rhubarb got back at him. It grew with a vengance, and rather than having one rhubarb plant, we had four! Who knew that tilling rhubarb is actually good for it?


  3. Kana,
    I tell the same things to my kids about broccoli:

    “The Whispering Petunia, did you know that broccoli killed Homer Simpson?”.

    And voilà! The kids refuses to go anywhere near the vegetable.
    Le Clown


  4. What a wonderful memory and story. It must have been fun in the retelling and sharing that happens when family come together. From your photo you guys seem like a warm, fun filled happy bunch. Thanks for sharing.



  5. What a lovely family story. I can’t imagine your mom was just now clued in on your childhood fear of rhubarb leaves. It’s kind of funny, both the story and how long she didn’t know.

    At our house it rhubarb and strawberry crisp. My son-on-law makes it, easy on the sugar.


    1. She actually felt kind of badly, which wasn’t our intention in sharing… (She didn’t realize she’d inadvertently “tortured” us with rhubarb leaves all those years…) But we all had a good laugh now! :)


  6. What’s hilarious about this is that I’m 28 years old, and my stepmother, just last week, told me that Rhubarb leaves were poisonous. She told me that when she was a teenager, she read about it in an old James Bond book. She said that it’s the easiest way to kill someone because you can slip it into a salad or a sandwich, and it’s completely untraceable. :)


  7. Funny story! I can’t remember any misunderstandings like that that I had, but my mom had a funny one. When she was a kid, my grandma told her that the moss on the rocks was from snakes. (I have no idea if she really believed that.) My mom is scared of snakes and avoided lots of outdoor activities because of the ‘snake moss.’

    Great family picture. Goofy faces are always fun :)


  8. I love how open and unguarded you are in your posts.
    At one point in my last post, when I researching all the poisonous plants, I had to just throw up my hands and say, “Enough already! Whatever will be, will be.” ;-)
    I was thinking just the other day about something that I have said all my life, the 23rd Psalm and the line “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.” For almost 60 years I heard this line in my head as 1. Surely (pause), 2. goodness (pause) and 3. mercy shall follow…” as if the word surely were a noun. So childlike, but I never examined it before.
    I truly think that is part of the creative mind, viewing/hearing the world a little askew…translating the world around us a little differently from the norm???


  9. My version of this story comes from the old “Don’t drink and drive” ads everywhere in the 80’s. I was absolutely terrified once when my mom drove home from Spokane with a soda from the gas station… no one really clarified that the warning was about drinking specific things :-)


  10. I have a plant that I have the same kind of aversion to and yet I see it everywhere as landscaping and shrubbery throughout California. I am beginning to think that my dad may have over exaggerated some details of the plant.


  11. Yeah….I’ve always looked squint-eyed at rhubarb. First of all because I never thought it was that tasty. It was all the sugar added to the pie that made it palatable. And then…how could only the leaves be poisonous??? I suppose only a snake’s venom is poisonous and if you don’t eat the venom you’re okay. That’s the same way I feel about rhubarb.


  12. Family time is so much fun, mostly for stories like this. It’s amazing how many little hidden tidbits there are that come up when everyone gets together. Every time they come up again they make you smile or laugh all over too.


  13. Lol! This is really funny. I can’t tell you how many of these types of confusions have followed me me into adulthood. You know, when we were kid, we didn’t have the internet to double check on whether what our parents were telling us was accurate. Of course, it sounds like your Mom was being truthful (would’ve been unusual for my jokester parents) and you simply misunderstood. I love it! :-)


    1. My mom is a prankster by nature, but she didn’t exercise that tendency on US… She actually felt badly when she discovered our
      misunderstanding, but by now the two of us think it’s a pretty good joke.. On US! :)


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