Red Hibiscus Day
In 1970 my parents and I took a six week trip driving from Boston to Oxaca Mexico. I was twenty-one, about to enter my senior year of college, and still had enough eyesight to enjoy the brilliant reds, oranges, and yellows of the semi tropical flowers we found growing along the highways as we drove into Mexico.
My mother was always looking for things of beauty to point out to me. The flame trees were covered in orange flowers, and the Coppa de Oro and Trompet Amarillo vines flaunted brilliant yellow flowers which looked even more golden against their backdrop of green leaves. By far my favorite blossoms were the bright red hibiscus flowers which grew in immensely high hedges along the roadside. We would stop the car and I would get out and pick an armful of these outrageously romantic blooms just so I could burry my face in their beauty. I would pin one into the coil of my dark brown hair which I had worn drawn back in a bun since I was sixteen.
Six years later I traveled to Hawaii with my cousins. I made friends with red and yellow hibiscus flowers in their garden in California, and that was simply preparation for being inundated with the hibiscus flowers which greeted me on our arrival in Honolulu. By then I could no longer see colors, but my cousins were ready to feed my imagination with word pictures of the colors of the flowers which were clear in my memory.
I had moved to Tucson Arizona, and when I returned from Hawaii, I found I could grow hibiscus plants and enjoy their blossoms all summer long. In 1997 my gardening was interrupted by undergoing a mastectomy and subsequent treatments of chemotherapy. My long brown hair grew thin and fell out. One day I wanted to look bold and dramatic. In my garden was one large red hibiscus flower. I wanted to wear it though my hair was gone and I was wearing a blonde paigeboy wig. Suddenly I realized I could wear that flower pinned to my wig where it spread its large dramatic petals over my cheek, ear, and false hair. It was a dramatic statement, and from then on, that red hibiscus became a symbol of recovery and victory.
Fourteen years later I wore red hibiscus flowers in my hair as a symbol of victory and triumph. My own hair was worn in a coil again, though now it was shot through with gray. The hibiscus flowers were made of silk since it was November. The occasion was the premiere book signing of Making Friends With Other Trees and Flowers – a Story of Low Vision and High Expectation, my first book, and on the book cover was a picture of one enormous red hibiscus flower displayed against a piano keyboard. That said it all. From now on, every day was to be a Red Hibiscus Day.