Eucalyptus: Memory and Desire

4 Feb

ImageI love the smell of eucalyptus in the morning.  And in the evening, too.  I love it all the time, which is why I had to buy some and place it in different rooms so I could have the benefit of it no matter where I was in my house.  I breathe deep its clean but peppery perfume.  Eucalyptus always reminds me of two things, well, three things, really.  One, my visit to the San Diego Zoo where I saw the baby pandas several years ago.  Apparently pandas chew on eucalyptus.  Or is that koalas?  Now I can’t remember.  I remember I saw pandas, not koalas in San Diego, but now that I ponder it, I think they were eating bamboo.  Maybe it’s just koalas who like to chew on eucalyptus.  I don’t recall if I have ever seen koalas up close and personal.  Oh, well.  I guess I could Google it, but I’d rather move on to the second thing it reminds me of:  those huge trees along the rocky road to Ron and Mark’s house for choir practice when I was living on the Big Island.  I had never seen such colorful bark and wouldn’t have believed it was true if I hadn’t seen it in person.  Rainbows.  That’s what it looked like, and since rainbows are plentiful in Hawaii (in more ways than one), I guess it was appropriate.  In fact, I think they were called Rainbow Eucalyptus trees—or at least they should have been.  

The third thing, which is actually the first in my memory, is when I was a bridesmaid for my college roommate, and her brother made the most beautiful and aromatic floral arrangements for each of her bridesmaids to carry in these sweet little baskets.  The eucalyptus filled in between the mauve silk tiger lilies, and the matching mauve ribbon cascaded from the twisted wicker handle.  Mauve was big back then.  I kept my flower basket for years, letting it scent my house, until it came irreparably apart from too many relocations.  This is the first time I think I’ve had eucalyptus back in my house since then, and its aroma is as sweet and spicy as ever.  It’s the first time I’ve thought about my roomie’s brother, too, in a long, long time.  The last I heard he had made the floral arrangements for Truman Capote’s big shindig in New York where Tennessee Williams, a frequent guest, admired the flowers and the brother so much he invited him—with or without flowers—to go to Europe with him.  I remember how jealous I was!  Tennessee Williams!  I was the big American drama major!  The brother was just a, a flower designer!   I should get to go to Europe with the famous playwright!  I wanted to go!  “No, you don’t,” I remember my father admonishing me—rather uncharacteristically, I might add.  “Not with that old reprobate,” he said.  Reprobate?  What was that?  Apparently it was a term he might have used to describe the brother, too, if he had known—if any of us had known back then.  I wasn’t aware of any of that at the time—and not until long after all of them were dead—young, old, brothers and reprobates alike.  AIDS, no respecter of persons, so it would seem.  That might explain why my roommate’s brother had never been interested in dating any of her friends, though we had mooned about over his dreamy good looks, hinting at the possibilities whenever he came around.

Now I think of Blanche DeBois in Streetcar Named Desire:  “He was a boy, just a boy, when I was a very young girl.  … There was something different about the boy, a nervousness, a softness and tenderness which wasn’t like a man’s, although he wasn’t the least bit effeminate looking — still — that thing was there … “ 

That thing.  It’s mixed up in the scent of eucalyptus.   I breathe it in as I pass from room to room.  Memory and desire. 

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2 Responses to “Eucalyptus: Memory and Desire”

  1. K H Richardson February 5, 2013 at 1:20 pm #

    It is amazing how smells can immediately transport us back in time to places we loved or regretted. Three of my favorite transportive smells are sharpened pencils, crayons and the smell of old churches; the kind with wooden pews and hymnals. Walking into a florist takes me back to going to aunt’s florist in a small town in eastern Kentucky when I was a little girl always to find a tub of bubble gum waiting for us behind the counter. I won’t share the smells of regretted moments, the lessons were learned and now we move on.

    Oh, and it was koalas who ate the eucalyptus, that’s why they sleep all the time…

    • julianavadnais February 5, 2013 at 7:21 pm #

      I saw koalas in San Diego. They were super cute. And I loved that zoo. By far the best one I have ever been to. Although not the most eventful. That would be the Montgomery Zoo where my pregnant mother was pounced on through the glass by a white tiger. Yeah, fun times.

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