As a Southern woman, I have a deep love for southern magnolia trees. They are symbolic of the region and there is no other tree that can compare to them. The blooms are quite large and they are typically the color of a wedding dress. The leaves have a glossy sheen to the outside and the underside is brown and feels a bit like a soft velvet. They are so much more than ‘just a tree’ and the scent from them is so lemony aromatic that it can be downright overpowering.
When I moved to Florida, I had to leave behind the enormous magnolia tree that was in my yard. There are plenty of magnolia trees in Florida but they are a different variety of magnolia called the sweetbay and they just aren’t the same. They aren’t as fragrant, they don’t grow as large nor are they covered in blooms all at one time like the ones back in Louisiana.
When I make trips to go back home, I love going in the spring the most. The weather wasn’t so hot and humid that your makeup slides off your face and the magnolias and the dogwoods were in bloom. My family notwithstanding, those magnolia trees make north Louisiana feel like “home” again. It’s the little things, huh?
After living in Florida for nearly two decades, I slowly built a life here. But the life I worked to make here has changed tremendously over the past few years. I have often said I am as allergic to change as I am to mornings but in spite of my allergies, they both seem to happen on a daily basis.
The only thing that is constant is change — Heraclitus
So as life moves on and constantly changes, so must we. Some things we have the ability to change ourselves, others we are at the mercy of God and the universe. No matter where the change originates, we have to adapt. A small pieces part of my adaptation was losing my dog, Romeo. I didn’t really “lose” him so much as he was taken from me but that’s a completely different story and one i’m not really prepared to tell just yet. Another time, perhaps.
If I back up several years and give you a little history, I could tell you about Lil’ Bit — a tiny little Shih Tzu that I found languishing at a local animal shelter when she was about 6 years old. She was a pitiful mess and to be honest, not very friendly to most. She must have had a pretty rough life before she landed in the shelter and her appearance told the story. She was a matted, twisted mess and she was soaked in her own urine. She didn’t trust anyone but seemed to be okay with me for some reason. I guess one wounded heart recognizes another and she just accepted immediately that I would not hurt her. I rescued her (or it may have been the other way around) from that place that made her shake violently and cower on the newspaper that was lined in her cage. I had her coat shaved down to the point where she looked like more like a rat than a dog but she was free of the tangles and the urine wasn’t burning her skin any more. I’m sure she felt like a princess after that and I did everything I could to make her feel like one thereafter. She was my constant shadow and she loved me like no other animal ever has. She lived out the last ten years of her life in my care and I held her in my lap when she crossed over the rainbow bridge to a life beyond.
My loss was profound and it took quite some time for me to entertain the idea of another dog but finally I felt ready <enter Romeo, stage left>. Romeo was with me the first four years of his life but now lives with my ex and I haven’t seen him in a long time. I have to believe that he is okay in spite of not really knowing. That’s the hardest part, the not knowing. I just pray he’s healthy and happy.
One evening I found myself thinking about Romeo so strongly that I landed on a local shelter’s website (ADD, much?). And there, in black and white was a picture of a girl dog they were calling “Buttons” that looked so much like Romeo that I even called the shelter to be SURE it wasn’t him. It was right at closing time so there was no answer and after a very restless night, I ventured up there the next morning to see for myself. I got there before most of the staff and poor “Buttons” was in a different building. They told me that I would need to come back after 11:00 when the facility was open to see her and that she had actually been slated for adoption but for some reason, it had fallen through.
I begged them to let me make sure it wasn’t my Romeo. Perhaps there had been a clerical error stating the sex of the dog or something else bizarre? It could happen, right? They allowed me to see the dog and at least I was assured that it really wasn’t Romeo even though they look a LOT alike. When I saw “Buttons”, she came running up to me, wagging her tail as if she had known me all her life. I picked her up and she did exactly what Lil’ Bit had done so many years ago — she melted into my chest and my heart melted into a puddle of instant love.
I could not resist even though I knew it would be a struggle to take on another responsibility. My heart won out over my head in this particular incidence because “Buttons” became Magnolia Blossom and her address became mine. Since then, she has reminded me in so many ways of Lil’ Bit — so much so that it’s like having Lil’ Bit back in my life again. Magnolia, AKA Maggie (it’s less of a mouthful to say most of the time) has been amazing. She may not smell as lemony as the blossoms on the actual tree and she does have a good bit of black on her ‘wedding dress’ but she blooms in my heart and life no matter the season.