This is a picture of what I thought, until today, all magnolias looked like. It’s a magnolia grandiflora, or the Southern magnolia as it’s mostly called, native to the southeastern United States. The one that was in my backyard in Alexandria, Virginia, until I was eleven or so, was probably among the northernmost. And I often looked up at it like this, and kicked about the fallen leaves underneath. Supple and smooth as leather. Its great virtue, to me, was that it was evergreen. Just like my Catholic school jumper.
It grew taller than it should have, that backyard magnolia. It started to lean right toward my bedroom. And so we cut it down when I was in middle school. I’d never been much one for climbing, but I liked its shade. I was sadder than I thought I’d be. I still miss it. There’s a Japanese maple now where it used to be, but its leaves have nothing like the magnolia’s gloss and strength.
I hadn’t thought about it in a while when yesterday, a friend posted a picture of a magnolia in bloom. And I stared at it for a good few minutes, because until yesterday, I had no idea magnolias could bloom.
And oh, do they bloom.
That’s all, really. I just can’t believe I’ve gone my whole life without knowing that magnolias can bloom, and how beautiful they are when they do.