Season of the Tropical Almond
Disclaimer: Tear-jerker content. If you are easily tear-jerked (v.), please back off slowly. Now.
If any of you have ever seen a Tropical Almond tree in South Florida (they are found in most tropical areas) during the so-called "cold" months (November, December, January) you know what I am talking about. This is a very tall, pagoda-shaped tree with big, deeply veined leaves that turn many shades of magenta/red/red violet/plum/fuschia during our short, but still heavily griped-about, cold season. In the Summer months (the rest of the year not NOV/DEC/JAN) it is a sight to behold because the leaves are glossy and a light green in those months. But for me, catching a glimpse of a fiery mass of magenta/burgundy colored leaves through the deep green, jungle-like chaos of SoFla vegetation during this time of the year makes my heart flutter, my neck crane and my front bumper to get awfully close to the rear bumper of the car right in front of me. I've been very lucky that I have avoided automobile accidents and fender-benders so far. The contrast, the glossy leaves in a million shades of aforementioned colors (otherwise I will never finish this post), the sheer height of the tree towering over the parasitic, the recumbent, the climbing, the-short-of-stature, and boringly GREEN rest of local flora is truly, and of itself, an eye-dessert.
It is one of my favorite SoFla and all-time, all-places tree. To this day my sons groan when we are headed somewhere in MY car and I perform a legal U-turn to check out a carmine-colored almond tree. Tangentially, it always amazes me that my own father loved many different plants and trees and when I was young I thought HE was crazy to go way out of his way home or to the grocery store just to look at a specimen he enjoyed. Then, I turned into him. And weirdly enough, my youngest son has recently taken to bringing home seeds and planting them in little, unmatched pots. He has admitted to a love of orchids and has brought some home and they are thriving. What made me laugh is that he has a young Royal Poinciana tree that he pirated from somewhere, it was a tiny shoot and he just pulled it out of the ground and brought it home. He planted it in a pot and every morning before he leaves the house he takes this pot and places it where he thinks there will be the most sunlight. Then when he gets home in the evening, he will put it back on the porch "for protection against the wind." Ok, I need to explain that I am CRAZY for plants but my hectic lifestyle and back problems have given me a "What-the-hell-it-died" philosophy when dealing with caring for plants. So, I find my son's preoccupation with this plant to be a bit creepy. Every day, that plant is in a different location on the front lawn. I have almost tripped on it several times, walking back from the mailbox out in front because one never knows where the plant will be...and he has even gone so far to ask me if I thought it was doing well...That kind of weirded me out. I said "it hasn't died yet so it's ok." Which he thought was an overly simplistic (or possibly cynical) statement, probably originating from laziness or tiredness or just plain being 56 years old, which for him must seem like 96. Yes, I still remember how I felt about older people at his age. They all seemed like characters from Tales of the Crypt. Kind of like the effect Adrienne what's-her-face-that-sells-makeup&face-creams still has on me.
Digression is over. Then there is another reason why I so deeply connect with this tree. When I was little in Cuba, my dad and I would often sit together on the beach while he pounded on tropical almond seeds. They are very hard to open, the covering is really tough. But the treat was a sliver of tasty, bitter almond. He would eat one and I would eat the other, taking turns. This memory is one of the happy places I go to when I am stressed, disgusted, overworked, angry, sad, or just confused, which is quite often. And the smell or taste of almonds never fails to take me there. It is difficult for me to describe the warmth, happiness, just all-over peace and safety I feel when I go to this happy place.