random thoughts: magnolias, ixoras and other cultural symbols
Friday afternoon, as we drove into our driveway after running some errands, I noticed that our magnolia tree was in full bloom. "Marcus," I said, "can you help me cut down some of the flowers? I want to photograph them." So Marcus parked the car, got some garden shears out of the garage and followed me to the garden to help me choose some branches to cut.
A few minutes later, as I arranged them in vase of water to place in our entryway, I thought about how southern magnolia branches are, particularly when haphazardly arranged in a large vase and placed in an entryway. It felt sort of weird that I, who do not consider myself southern American in any way, shape or form, was doing something I considered extremely southern, simply because of where we live now. Obviously, it wasn't the act of putting flowers in a vase that was southern so much, but more that it was magnolia branches, and standing in my air conditioned kitchen while I arranged them to put them in our entryway that made it so.
And then I thought that if we still lived in Trinidad, I probably would've been doing the exact same thing on a Friday afternoon, except the kitchen windows would've been open to let in the sea breeze, and they would've been branches from an ixora bush instead of a magnolia tree, and placing them in our entryway would've felt quintessentially Trini. And in England, in the village where Marcus grew up, what would it have been -- standing in a kitchen with the radiator going? Hydrangea branches?
It made me wonder how Alex is growing up -- does she feel Texan? Trinidadian? English? Some sort of weird combination of the three? With the different foods, the different music and yes, the different flowers in her home and in her friends' homes, will she self-identify with a particular culture? With all of them?
Does it matter?
To be honest, I don't think it does, one way or the other. But as I think of all the things that we make a point of doing to make our house feel like home -- my baking (like my mother did), cooking Trinidadian food, listening to music; or Marcus making "full English roasts" for Sunday lunch, and all of us-- including Alex -- drinking copious amounts of tea (hot, like in Trinidad & England, not cold, like in Texas), I can't help but wonder: when Alex leaves home, and living wherever in the world she chooses to live, making her family however she does, what culture will she reminisce about while standing in her kitchen arranging flowers for her entryway?
I sort of hope she'll think of her Trini mother arranging Texan magolia branches while sipping her English breakfast tea.
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By the way, the winner of the giveaway for the books Planting Dandelions and The Beauty of Different is Jess, who said "What a great giveaway. Yes Please!" Congratulations, Jess! Keep a lookout for my email, so you can send me your snail mail details. And thanks to all who entered!
Image: Photographed with my Nikon D200, 50mm lens. aperture 1.4, shutter speed 1/200, ISO 400
Song: Trini to d bone by David Rudder