I know that many early risers and Sunday brunch aficionados find hope in the mimosa, a sparkling wine and orange juice concoction that does offer a morning pick-me-up and the hope of at least starting a new day off right and staying that way. However, for me, lasting hope is found in the mimosa tree with its pink flowers that, in my neighborhood of Queens Village, died off en masse, about 40 years ago. When I was a boy, my friends and I loved climbing these trees and gathering the puffy, pink flowers in bouquets.
Yet last year, in my mother’s yard, there it was! About 20 feet from where the old one died, a new mimosa tree sprang up that actually blossomed this summer — one of only two I have seen in my neighborhood. At first, I thought about its beauty and how nice it was to have it back, but then the memories of when the neighborhood was full of them came rushing back along with the old times when life was so much different and simpler. Yes, when we all would go to Mrs. G’s pool for the whole afternoon or play kickball, football and softball or catch on the empty streets. Getting two slices of pizza and a soda for a dollar across Springfield Boulevard or going to Palisades Park or Shea Stadium.
Later, I started thinking of all the people no longer with us with whom I enjoyed doing these things. Not only the majority who got married and moved away, but especially Mike, Steve and Chris — young lives cut short by speeding cars in the summer when they, like the mimosas, were in full bloom — and my closest friend, Cliffy, the best and brightest of us all, before that last ride on the motorcycle he never should have bought. Of course, I always think of my devoted dad, also deceased, who really loved the mimosas, if only because he spent a lot of time in the South, where they are so plentiful, before he met my mom, who now suffers from dementia and can only look out her window at the mimosa in her yard. What is she thinking when she sees it?
Yet, there is, I believe, hope in the mimosa if only in the words of the man Job, who was contemplating not just his own mortality but hope in a rebirth in the Bible book that bears his name: “For there is hope even for a tree. If it is cut down, it will sprout again and its twigs will continue to grow. If its root grows old in the ground and its stump dies in the soil . . . it will produce branches like a new plant.” (Job 14:7-9)
Yes, the past is the past and my childhood is a memory, but I find hope in the now-flourishing mimosa tree that new life is possible where there was none, and what was thought gone forever will one day return and be better than before.