Ask anyone who ever visited my parents house between 1982 and 2015 what they remember most about the place and about 90% will say “your father’s jasmine at the entrance.” When they first bought the house there was a large Dama de Noche bush at the gate, known in India as Rat ki Rani, and by the same name in Latin America, this flowering bush with a powerful sweet scent is the object of many a superstition. My grandmother, for one, felt very strongly about it and had my father uproot it immediately. According to local Filipino lore, no house with a single unmarried woman should have this bush growing at the entrance or else she will never find a husband. I honestly never understood the connection until I read up on the matter. One legend says that there was a princes who loved the scent and perfumes but got sick and died. Another says that this particular night flowering plant attracts witches! Either way, my Lola would have nothing to do with it, and out the poor plant went. In its place came a traditional jasmine that Daddy chose himself and nurtured over the years. He wouldn’t bother with the other plants, except Lola’s orchids at some point, but after he over fertilized them one year my mother wouldn’t let him near them! So he stuck to the jasmine and the scrawny little plant grew into a sensational bush that cascaded elegantly over the gate.
Passers-by would stop to pick some of the flowers for their altar, in the same way that my parents also placed fresh jasmine blossoms every day at the altar. Daddy never needed to buy air freshener for the car either, all he had to do was pick flowers from the bush and place them on the dashboard. Each time I drove to their place, before I left he always placed a handful of jasmine in my palm. Funny how we take the little details for granted and remember them only when they can no longer happen ever again.
I reget never asking him why he chose jasmine over sampaguita, the national flower of the Philippines, which smells just as sweet, and is the flower of choice for garlands. This is what Lola had in her house so I would have assumed Daddy would follow suit and replaced the Dama de Noche with that. Fast-forwarding to 2015… when I sold the house, the new owner promised me that she would retain the jasmine and build around it. Since the decision to sell had been a sudden one, there was no time to get an offspring from the mother plant, and I hoped that I would be able to do so a few months later. I was devastated when I saw the new house that had taken the place of the old one, and there was absolutely no trace of the jasmine. It had been brutally uprooted the moment construction began.
Yesterday, a jasmine plant and a gingko tree were delivered to my doorstep. this bush dominates my small conservatory and seems to be trying to adjust to the new surroundings, like me. It is flowering, and somehow it completes the parental presence that I so miss. My mother’s sparrows come and go throughout the day, and now Daddy’s jasmine is here.