At this time of year, Australian streets are awash with the magnificent lilac-blue blooms of jacarandas. The streets are lined with these trees, bestowing the most breathtaking floral display. One of my fondest childhood memories is of counting jacaranda trees with my sisters and our nana.
On very warm days, after school, she would bundle us up and drive us over to our cousins’ house for a swim in their pool. It was a modest, above ground, no frills variety but we thought it was the best. We spent many a summer afternoon jumping in and out of that pool, playing Marco polo and running amok while our parents were nowhere to be seen. Pool safety wasn’t the concern it is these days. And if they were watching, they were usually sipping their G&T’s and paying us little attention. We loved it.
But aside from this water-fuelled fun, the journey from our house to theirs remains a beautiful memory for me. It was a 20-minute drive through the leafy eastern suburbs of Melbourne. And in early summer, the magnificent and striking Jacarandas were in full bloom. Our nana was an enthusiastic gardener and liked to teach us about the different flowers and trees. Our favorite was the pretty purple Jacaranda whose fallen flowers formed a purple carpet on the lawn underneath. Stunning.
Along the way, we would count the Jacarandas until we reached our destination. We did this every time we went to their house. Each window passenger was in charge of her side, and the middle seat passenger had to count the ones ahead and the ones we missed. It was a game that we never tired of, and we delighted in increasing our count every time. If I remember correctly our highest count was 90 something one particular summer. But who really knows if this is accurate. It was good old-fashioned fun and we loved it. It was also an activity reserved for our nana and these occasions when she took us to our cousin’s house.
It’s early summer in Australia now and these stunning trees are in bloom. Last week Miss A commented on a Jacaranda and asked me if it was a giant lavender tree. It gave me the purest, nostalgic pleasure to explain that it was in fact a Jacaranda and it had a special significance to me. I told her about the times we counted Jacarandas and she asked if she could play the game too. In that moment, the happiest of tears filled my eyes as I remembered my nana – the kindest and most loving influence in our lives aside from our own mum.
I think of my nana a lot since becoming a mother. How I wish she could have seen me become a mum. And how proud she would be knowing I can now tell a rose from a camellia and myrtle from a maple.
A generation has passed and I am now counting jacarandas with my own children. I think of her every time I see one, and I like to think that she’s looking down on us and smiling as she sees the tradition continuing.
Thank you my darling nana for this memory that I cherish.
Does anything about this time of year evoke a memory from your childhood? Are there any family traditions or rituals that you have passed on to your own family?