Sparked by Words



Our family moved from yellow-skied New Jersey in the late 1950s to a Honolulu suburb. My dad planted a small plumeria tree with white and yellow blossoms. It shaded a bathtub-sized pond in the front yard of our Aina Haina house. Five goldfish lived there, darting near the lava rock edges. One was a bug-eyed black molly, the other four were orange or orange with patches of black and white. Paradise isn’t where you find it. It’s where you make it.

If I opened the front door, the fish ignored me, even if I perched on the miniature waterfall to watch them swim. If I opened the sliding door immediately adjacent to the front door, the fish gathered at the surface in the center of the pond. They wriggled their tails and bubbled their enthusiasm. They’d learned to respond to the screech of the slider, and waited for me to feed them. The fish never tired of this trick and I never forgot how to play.

Many years after we moved to California, my parents built their dream house on a hill in the heartland of Orange County. Dad planted a small plumeria stalk in the yard with a view to the Pacific. A view to Hawaii, if you could see that far. I think he could.

Unlawful at the time to bring them to the mainland, he’d smuggled a foot long stalk in his jacket and flew it to California, beloved contraband for his garden. Twenty-five years later, it had grown as big as a school bus, a glorious sovereign of the yard. She graced us with thousands of coral pink blossoms, fragrance to make us drunk, and beauty to shame the roses.

My sons played in the shade of the tree and collected fallen blossoms.  They grew and the tree grew and our family grew and changed, as families do.

The house is long sold, my father long passed. One of my sweetest mementoes is the lei he strung for me of those pink plumeria blossoms, the only lei my dad ever gave me. I wore it for a week until the petals drooped on their string. Now it’s a dried bundle in a ceramic pitcher. If I touch the browned and brittle leaves, they break off in chips. Neither tape nor glue can repair my clumsiness. I’ve learned to look but not touch.

The new owners of the Orange County house cut down the pink plumeria tree. Fools. It couldn’t have possibly interfered with their view of Hawaii. You must have imagination to see that far.

Writing is as much fabrication as memory. This story is true. As for my other stories, you’ll have to guess. I never tire of keeping secrets.


Photograph of plumeria flowers courtesy Pixabay




Comments on: "Plumeria" (30)

  1. Such a beautiful memory. Your words took me there.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Lovely post, Sharon💕

    Liked by 1 person

  3. The downside of selling. New owners don’t think right. Sigh.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Sharon, I really love your story from your childhood home in California, it sounds like an idyll from a book.
    I feel quite upset for the Pink Pumeria Tree that got cut down. Just like that! How could they?
    A tree like that is history alive.


    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m glad you enjoyed the story. I agree with you about the tree, Miriam, though I don’t know the people who cut it down or why they did it. At that point, it was an extraordinary specimen tree.


  5. lovely memory – tx for sharing – I have an amazing fig tree that makes me never want to sell my home for fear new owners would chop it down…


    • It’s very hard to sell something we love, especially a place filled with the memories of when we lived there. But this plumeria tree – I just don’t understand cutting something so incredible – it would be like blasting away Half Dome to get a better view of Yosemite Valley.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Sharon, I love this story and how you tell it. So sad about the fate of the tree though. Reminds me of when my parents sold their home of forty years to a person who cut down my mom’s beloved pink dogwood. So sad that some people don’t appreciate trees and take them down unnecessarily. I hope somewhere you might have a picture of the one in your story. Would love to see…. Meanwhile you’ve painted a great word picture of it. ❤️


  7. Now I know what to get you for your birthday . . . a bug-eyed plumeria named Molly.


  8. That is such a beautiful story for a once beautiful blossoming tree. Isn’t it wonderful how looking at some dry strings from years back brings back the flood of emotions attached with it? May you get to look at all the movie beautiful flowery views in your life.


  9. I didn’t know what flower was used to make a lei. Now I do. Shari, your story brought forward a story of my past about a bush in the backyard of the house I grew up in.


    • Many flowers can be used to make a lei, from carnations to crown flowers. But plumeria are common.
      Glynis, will you write about your bush on your blog? I’ve missed you and hope you return.


  10. Well you know how much I love the elusive (to me) plumeria, Shari! Isn’t it sad to know that folks who move into our old family homes cut down those plants and trees that became dear to us in our youth? My grandfather loved gardening in his San Diego home. Among his prized possessions were his honeysuckle vines, bougainvillea, and two large date palms. When he passed away over 20 years ago, the new owners promptly uprooted and sold the palms; I believe they were worth a lot of money. When I visit I often drive by the house and remember those times. I’m glad I have a couple of old polaroids of him out there among his trees! I also wanted to say how cool it is that you saved the plumeria lei and it “lives” in a vase.


    • How sweet that you have photos of your grandfather with his beloved trees. I bet someone really good with digital technology could enhance them for you. Actually, you’re pretty handy yourself – maybe you can do it.

      I wish I had photos of my dad with this plumeria tree, and the gorgeous Japanese maple he planted out front, and the magnificent fig tree off the back deck – but there are few pics to be found, and I have none. Even when he lived his last ten years with my mom at their San Clemente condo overlooking the Pacific, he maintained the rose garden for all the residents to enjoy. One of his dying conversations to me was how to care for the roses so they’d bloom twice a year, so everyone could see them. I went back one time and picked a few of his roses, but haven’t been back since.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Oh no, that poor Plumeria tree – where is the heart that could cut down such a beauty. Just from your eloquent description I can picture the small specimen brought into the country, watching it grow. A lifetime of memories and love … your beloved lei brought tears to my eyes, still treasured in its precarious state. Wonderful writing, and I love hearing your tales – whether true or not! Glad this one is! 😀


    • Yes, this is a true story. I was pretty angry when I found out the plumeria – and the extraordinary Japanese maple in the front yard and the enormous fig tree off the back deck – had all been cut down by new owners. None of these trees blocked views or impeded with plumbing. But when I think of the old house, I remember it with all its majestic arboreal glory.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. I talk about having compassion for other people’s views but it’s especially hard for me when they butcher trees. Two neighbors in my hometown fought when one chopped down this incredible blue spruce on the property boundary between them. the one man’s wife had suffered for years with the aftereffects of polio and was so weak now that her only delight was watching the birds flit around in that tree. The other (new) neighbor chopped it down so he could park his huge and ugly camper there.

    As usual your writing is amazing.


  13. Oh! I love plumeria trees and flowers! I can never get enough of looking at them.
    ‘I’ve learned only to look and not to touch’ – such a very deep truth, Shari. Some things can only be admired from a distance like the now dried beautiful lei your father made you.


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