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Monday, June 2, 2008

The Gardenia bush in Alice's front yard

We're back to flowers now. When Jan and I pulled up to my sister's house on the way to New Orleans for the reunion (see the causeway post), the beautiful fragrance of gardenias filled the air as I got out of the car. The gardenia bush, sort of small when I had visited last, had grown to near the height of the carport of their house! There were hundreds of fragrant white blossoms all over the bush. I vowed to get at least one good shot of a gardenia before I left the next morning.

The gardenia is almost a legend in our family. Like the magnolia, the gardenia was a favorite of my mother's. And my father, who also liked them very much, would always plant a gardenia bush at each place we moved to. We were never without the blooms during the spring, and we could hide and cool off in the shade of the dense dark green leaves during the hot summers.

The gardenia was mom and dad's "dating flower." Whenever he could, my dad would bring mom (not a mom then, of course) a small bunch of gardenias when they went out on dates. I can't say for sure that this is true, but we always heard the stories of dad bicycling from New Orleans to Mississippi, where mom lived (about 150 miles), to visit with his grandparents, and date Imogene. I can't remember if he rode the bike because he didn't have a car, or if the car was broke down. Either way, it always made us kids aware of just how strong Ray's feelings were for his beloved 'Gene.

A kind of sad footnote to the legend; when mom passed away, we wanted her to have a gardenia bloom with her in the casket. But the gardenias were out of season, so Alice found a silk one that we placed in her folded hands. I think she would have been glad to know that we remembered how much she loved them (and us).

PS Thanks to my brother Bill for reminding me that the flower is a gardenia, not a camelia. I swear I knew that, I really did....

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