Wednesday, September 14, 2011
It's 1956, and I am in the sixth grade. Our class has been relegated to the "second" lunch room for the year. This is an isolated place for just our class. We are cut off from any sightings of seventh grade boys. I didn't know about Siberia then, but that's what it was like.
In the back against the wall is an ice cream freezer. After we have cleared our plates, we each have a turn at the chest-type freezer. I open it up and am disappointed. Only Dreamsicles today, those vanilla and orange concoctions on a stick. I much prefer Fudgsicles or even the little vanilla cups with the flat wooden spoons, but I take what I can get. I don't think I like Dreamsicles until I take a few bites, and then I want to eat every one in the freezer.
I never thought a color could take you back to a specific time and place (a la the aroma of Proust's madeleines), but the moment I saw the first bloom on my orange tea olive (Osmanthus fragrans var. aurantiacus), I had one thought - Dreamsicle, and I was immediately back in that desolate, but noisy lunch room.
Years ago, TV host and horticulturist Erica Glasener brought me this unusual tea olive. I planted it near the bird feeders outside the kitchen door. The next September, I stepped out with my pitcher of sunflower seeds and was stopped in my tracks. The sweetest, most pleasant fragrance was coming from somewhere. Then I realized. The tea olive had come into bloom.
The photograph above was taken in September 2010. For some reason, the flowers, which appear along the branches, were a deeper orange. I have slides from other years, and Dreamsicle is definitely the color, a pale apricot that is unlike any other flower color I can think of.
The plant hasn't bloomed yet this year, maybe because of months of above 90 degree heat. But any day now, I'll step outside to feed the birds, and I'll catch that sweet scent which eventually wraps around the entire house. I'm anxious to see if the color will go back to that strangest of all apricot tints that has the power to transport me back through time to a lunch room that is long gone, but is still right there in my memory.