Rhododendron

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The early parts of summer are here. When the rhododendron our great-grandmothers planted next to their houses are blooming in full force. Once tiny shrubs, they now tower above our heads with lilac or fuchsia blooms as big as cabbages.

These rhododendron remind us of our great-grandmothers and their chocolate chip cookies and cuckoo clocks. We think of the necklaces we made for them out of shoestrings and wooden beads. The fried chicken they loved and their coconut doorstops. Their generous insistence that we take more treats, more trinkets, more Sunkist sodas.

We think of the careful exploring we did in their houses. We were careful because we thought our fascination with their old things might offend them. We didn’t want to make our great-grandmothers feel old; but we had never seen so many ancient, funny-smelling treasures tucked in closets or placed on dressing tables.

So I see these rhododendron and I miss my great-grandmothers. I want to take pictures in front of these thick floral walls. I want to point to the bushes I pass while driving and yell: “did your grandmother plant that one??” to the person mowing his lawn. These old time-y bushes make me feel connected to black and white photographs and “good” silverware at holiday meals and putting water in ketchup bottles so nothing goes to waste.

I’m far from those times but I’m thankful for great-grandmothers like Olive and Sue and Rofie. Even the flowering shrubs in strangers’ yards are helping me remember them this summer.Image

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