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  • Betty Girardeau

Memories Are Made Of Such Things

This week has seen the mimosa trees coming into full bloom again. They are everywhere. Looking out the back windows from my house I can see three huge ones. Driving to the grocery store and back I noticed that mimosas seemed to be the predominant trees on the sides of the road. Like the dogwoods and redbud trees before them, these exotic flowering trees have a yearly shout out of only a few weeks of blooming to make the world take particular notice of them. Steve Bender, "Southern Living" magazine's Grumpy Gardener has called them "The wonderful, awful weed, " and when asked when is the best time to prune these fast growing trees says, "- whenever you can find a chainsaw." He admits that he used to love these trees with the puffball flowers and fernlike leaves. But as an adult, his love affair has ended. Bender lives in Alabama where mimosa trees must be as prevalent as they are here in Tennessee and has learned to hate each of these flowers which will produce six inch long seed pods each holding hundreds of seeds. Because mimosas, a native of Asia and the Middle East, adapt really well to growing conditions in the south, those seeds, once dropped, will find easy purchase and will germinate even in the cracks in the pavement. As he has said, "Plant one mimosa in your yard and soon every house in the neighborhood will have two or three of these trees." That may be an extreme observation, because though I have many of these trees in the natural areas surrounding my house and community, I don't think I have ever seen them in a neighbor's yard. But my father's sister did. It had been planted fairly close to the front sidewalk and was usually in full bloom when we visited each summer. The flowers, that smell faintly like gardenias, attract a lot of bees. I remember taking a wide berth of that tree and literally ran as fast as I could away from it, being fearful of a bee sting from one of the many bees humming on and around it. I didn't like that tree! But my husband did. He often commented that it was a favorite of his and really appreciated the hundreds of them gracing the edges of Tellico Lake and the roads and byways. I asked him once why he loved these trees, and his "man's" answer was, "I don't know. I just do." I remember taking a dinner cruise on the lake when we still had our boat. We found a little cove in which to anchor while we enjoyed our dinner. Mimosas of many different shades of pink graced the shoreline and the sweet perfume of their flowers was delightful, making the memory of that evening particularly special. This morning seeing the mimosas behind my house as I was getting up and then again on my way to the grocery store and back, I couldn't help but think of my husband, my aunt, and summers when I was a child. Isn't it interesting that something so mundane as a tree can conjure up so many and such varied memories?

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