Friends through the Azaleas – A mothers day storyBy Fran Capo – Travel Adventure MomWhen my son, Spencer was fourteen, I used to drive him every Sunday morning to Aikido class at a Judo School in Forest Hills, Queens. It was his choice to take this form of martial arts. Aikido is martial art that combines fluid movement, grappling techniques and channeling of internal energy, your ki, to defend yourself. It teaches you to not oppose the force of an attack or what is coming at you in life, but to redirect it’s energy into something you desire. As a philosophy of life, it teaches you to take any negative energy away from you and turn it into something you can handle. Week after week I would watch and want to join the class. But Spencer and I had an agreement, this would be his own special thing. Something that he wasn’t doing with his mom. Being always one to want participate in life, and not sit on the sidelines, I needed to turn my anxious energy of wanting to join in on the class into something positive. So every Sunday, I would watch a few minutes of the class and then stroll into the surrounding neighborhood to unleash my energy. At first I would walk briskly, but soon I would get into the rhythm of the neighborhood. Forest Hills is an upscale, quaint area filled with English Tudor homes, turn of the century streetlights, and private winding roads. Just two blocks off the bustling Metropolitan Avenue, you get lost in almost a Hanzel and Gretel type atmosphere. I would walk along Ascan Avenue and admire the well-manicured homes with their stained glass windows, and arched doorways. There was a very peaceful quiet in the neighborhood. Every Sunday I would turn down any street and just follow the path trying to keep my sense of direction about me. It was a little game I played, I would just follow my heart and turn corners on a whim, and then go down interesting little back streets and see what I would discover. Then I’d try to make sure I could figure my way back to Spencer before his one-hour class was up. This one particular morning, it was Mother’s Day. All the flowers were in full bloom. A light rain had just occurred, which deepened all the colors and made the fragrance of the air feel fresh. The world was splashed with a crisp, clean, color. Trees hung with deep purple and pink fuzzy ball like flowers. Orange flowers with bright red stamens sprang from many gardens. Gorgeous Cherry Blossoms leaves where laying in the green grass encircling the trees with velvet pink blankets. It was a God’s palette come to life. I stopped often to smell the flowers, and then realized, that I must look like a walking cliché.It was getting near the end of my walk, and I turned down one street that was not quite a pretty as the others. I was a little disappointed because the bright colors of the other streets did not linethis one. I was going to turn around and choose another street because I wanted to stay in the world of color that was filling my eyes with peace. But then I decided I was really going to look for something that made this street beautiful. I was near the very end of the block when I spotted it. Along a green hedge, in front of this white-house, were hundreds of these tiny purple flowers with perfect little pin-sized golden balls at the end. They looked like miniature Christmas ornaments. I had never seen anything like it. The odd thing was you really had to look to see them. I easily could have missed these perfect gorgeous beings. I stared at them for a while. There was something about how perfect and brilliant each of them were that made me happy. I realized I was running late so I quickly noted the street, Juno and 71st and worked my way back through the maze of streets to Spencer. As always, Spencer came out of class excited, with a new technique he had learned. He asked, “Mom, you look really happy. What did you do while I was in class.” I was filled with excitement, “Spencer I took this fantastic walk, and the colors were so brilliant. Wait! Hop in the car, I want to show you these gorgeous little flowers I found.” I drove the car in and out of the streets trying to retrace my steps. Spencer couldn’t believe that I had walked this far and back in an hour. Then I came to the house with the perfect flowers. I pointed them out to Spencer from the car. “Come-on lets get out. I want you to see them up close.” At that moment and elderly Chinese man stood in the pathway of his home looking at us rather oddly. “Mom, I’m not getting out of the car. That man probably thinks we are burglars or something. This is getting embarrassing, can we just leave please.” I turned to Spencer, “We’re not doing something wrong. We are just looking at his flowers. I will just go up to the man and explain it. Besides it’s mother’s day, please play along with me. “Spencer paused, “Mom, that’s not fair. This is really embarrassing. Please let’s just leave. It’s a private street we shouldn’t be here anyway. I’ll make you breakfast or something else. “I was determined to let Spencer see the flowers. They were too beautiful not to see. I got out of the car and the man approached me.”Can I help you?” he said defensively like a man protecting his turf from an intruder. ” I know this is going to sound strange, but I was walking in your neighborhood and spotted these gorgeous flowers. I brought my son back to see them.” He looked me over for a second as if to size me up, then decided I was harmless. He smiled and then his face then lit up. “These are Azaleas. They are imported, a rare kind. They have been here since I’ve bought the house. I love them. You are the first person to ever stop and notice them. Tell your son to come out of the car and look.” I motioned to Spencer. He reluctantly got out of the car, still embarrassed that his mother was stopping to talk to a stranger. The man was very well spoken, and explained, ” Typically an azalea has flowers that have just one flower rather than a truss. The notable exception is this one, the azaleas that have a very tight shaped golden ball truss. These are very special.” We talked for a few minutes and then he invited us into his garden. Just on the other side of the hedge was a man made pond about six feet wide, with flowers all around it, and golden Coy fish happily swimming around inside. His garden was like a little paradise. He had cherry blossom trees whose petals lined the path to his front door. He had another pond up on a little hill that was surrounded with stones, and pebbles of all shapes and colors. As he was proudly showing us his garden his wife came out. Probably wandering who these strangers were that were now in their garden. I introduced myself and Spencer. She responded, “Hi, I’m Lisa. I thought I heard people out here. I see my husband Frank is showing off our garden.” We explained how it all came about and had a good laugh over it. We talked for about twenty minutes, laughing and exchanging our thoughts on life. I told her how Spencer felt awkward at first. She then turned to him and said, “My mother was the same way with people and I used to get embarrassed too. She would go to the store to buy food and come back two hours later with stories of people she met, meanwhile us kids were starving.” She laughed, “Are hungry Spencer?” He shook his head, “No thanks” and smiled, thankful she understood. We talked some more found out they were a family of attorneys. They guessed I was a writer by the way I described their garden. I talked about my adventures and how I now had it in my head that I wanted to climb Kilimanjaro. Turns out their daughter, Amy had climbed Kilamanjaro last year. They told me of all her adventures. Lisa said, “You and my daughter would get along fabulously.” Then they spoke of their son David who is into video games just like Spencer. After forty-five minutes we exchanged phone numbers and web addresses. We hugged our new friends goodbye. As we walked back to the car, Spencer shook his head, “I can’t believe it. How do you do it? How do you walk up to a t
otal stranger who looks like he wants to kill you, and make friends with him, get him to invite you into his home and became friends with him all over some flowers?” I said, “Spencer it’s like this. You know I’m not even a flower person, but I do know that you have to look for the beauty in life. I did learn something from watching all your Aikido class and that is to flow with the energy. The man had a negative energy at first because he thought of me like a threat, until I talked about our common bond, the flowers. Then everything was transformed, and our energies became one.” “Oh brother mom, that sounds way too Zen”. I laughed, “It does doesn’t it…but it works. And in the end, if you can find something that creates harmony, and makes everyone happy, no matter how you explain it, that’s a good thing”. We got back in the car and drove away, thinking of how odd life can be at times that something so simple can become so powerful. After all if you think of it, we became friends through the Azaleas. What a wonderful way to start a mother’s day.