There is no doubt that my daughter will think of her nana every time she sees a certain flower, though I’m not sure which it will be. Maybe it will be the hellebore, hasta, or the clematis. It won’t be the bougainvillea.

While the name may be the same, my nana and my daughter’s nana are two distinct people. To the wide eyed, adoring granddaughter a nana’s existence is quite specific: to read stories, cuddle, caress, and adore. Of course, my nana was much more than this (and so is my daughter’s nana). But at the end of the day, not much of that matters to a granddaughter lapping up that sweet attention and adoration.

My nana is now gone, but her spirit travels in the bougainvillea.

The abundant vine traveled up the stairway to her second-story house. Just like her demeanor, the vibrant flowers welcomed visitors. It was the first site I remembered every time we pushed out of the car after the long (very long) car trip from Michigan to Texas. The home, which sat on the edge of a canal, was modest… except for the bougainvillea, which boasted abundance.

Hellooooo, she’d bellow when our car pulled up in the drive after our grueling two-day trek. She didn’t normally have a low voice, but when she greeted her family she hollered an octave lower. She’d dip her knees and open her arms wide. I was doused in her embrace that smelled of Vaseline and cigarettes. Her skin soft and pillowy.

It’s through the bougainvillea that my Nana continues to welcome me every time I venture to a new destination in the south. She’s welcomed me in southern California, Chile, Nicaragua, and now Mexico. I’ve tried to capture the spirit more than once, folding one of the blossoms between the pages of a book in an attempt to hold on to a piece of her. But it is her memory that endures, not the dried petals.

Today, my daughter caresses the bougainvillea on the patio of our Mexican hotel. She dips her nose into it and breaths, completely unaware that she has inhaled bits of her ancestry.

Someday she may experience this very moment, when her daughter stumbles upon her nana’s botanical spirit. Maybe it will be the hellebore, hasta, or the clematis. It won’t be the bougainvillea.



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