Understory story, rhododendrons

Nov. 1, 2010
3:45 PM
Weather: Slightly windy, clear

There’s a picture of me in my house. I’m on my mother’s lap on some concrete steps before my mom put the rose garden there. She has on her big straw hat and I’m in a little jumper. Her huge 80’s-style sunglasses can’t hide her smile, whereas I’m clearly fascinated with something off in the distance and have no concept of “say cheese!” or smiling for photographs yet. We’re smooshed between two flowering rhododendrons.

Those rhododendrons marked my summers when I was growing up. Their big, clumpy purple and white flowers were always exploding with bees and butterflies throughout the season. They blocked the way from our patio, and my sister and I would scream and giggle trying to cross through the buzzing bushes as quickly as possible as to avoid getting stung. At night, we would crawl into them and pick flowers for our hair. Once, my mother made us each a flower necklace by stringing a bunch of flowers together. The flowers were so delicate and fragile that they mostly disintegrated within an hour, but until then, my sister and I may as well have been royalty!

Those trees, which once had limbs large enough to climb on, now look so small to me. Even the larger trees in the Crum don’t seem all that safe to climb on. Rhododendrons also have all of these interesting scientific connotations for me which trump the emotional connections I have with them. For instance, their leaves are really waxy to help them retain water, and in order to avoid exposure, the leaves can curl up into cylinders. There are hundreds of species, some of which are deciduous and others are evergreens.

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