An Ode to Azaleas

“We must go to the Botanical Garden this weekend!” I hurriedly told my husband, “Before the azaleas are gone!!!”

I simply adore azaleas. It was one of the reasons I fell in love with the house that we ultimately purchased. The whole façade was half-covered by a line of azaleas that went from one end of the house all the way to the other.

I’m originally from Iowa, spent my college years at Old Dominion, and then followed my Navy husband from coast to coast before finally returning to the Old Dominion State. I can attest that no other place welcomes spring the way Virginia can. Other parts of the country enter spring as if dipping a toe into a lake, unsure of whether the temperature will be just right, a little timid of getting wet, just to wind up freezing.

Virginia, on the other hand, does not wade timidly into the unsure waters of spring, as if the shark of winter will rear up and bite her toes off. Oh no, Virginia dives headfirst, almost recklessly, into the promise of spring. Virginia doesn’t hit winter with just azaleas, she throws cherry trees, pear trees, forsynthia, and camellias at it, going beyond a civil “Farewell!” to winter, but instead laughing at it before adding, “Hasta la vista, Baby.”

Hampton Roads in spring is nothing short of a symphony of color. Which is why, after the azaleas had been in bloom for a week, I began to panic. Because the one problem with my beautiful, bountiful azaleas is that as quickly as they burst onto the scene, they are gone again. Returned, once again, to a seemingly innocuous green, leafy bush.

Oh, cruel Mother Nature!

Seeing a gloriously warm and sunny Saturday in our future, I (the Mom) declared to hubby, two-year-old and five-year-old (the Family) that we were taking an excursion to Norfolk Botanical Garden to bask in the glory of azalea blooms before they fade away. Of course, there is always an ulterior motive. And, for future knowledge, that ulterior motive is always the same, pictures of my two little girls together.

Ah, but that sounds so simple! Let me clarify. A good photo means:
• Both girls are looking at the camera at the same time.
• Both are smiling at the same time and in the same picture.
• Both are standing in very close proximity of each other, without pestering one another.

Such a photo is even more elusive than my precious azaleas (at least I know those will be seen at least once a year!) A photo like that is more akin to the search for the Holy Grail. No one really knows if it even exists.

But I will not give up! And this time I had one more stipulation to my “perfect photo” list. I would be in the picture, too. Yes, yes. This was perhaps too much to ask for, and I knew it.

Still, ever hopeful, we got dressed, packed up the car, and headed to the Garden.
And let me tell you, those gardens were just as breathtaking as I remembered them! Awe-inspiring, amazing azaleas in a cacophony of white, pink, red, and (my favorite) fuchsia were in full bloom all over the gardens. Especially in The Enchanted Forest, where the massive, unkempt azalea bushes created paths that twisted and turned like a maze.

“Perfect!” I thought. “Anywhere here will be picture perfect!” But, alas, by the time we had made it back to the far corner of the gardens, and those gorgeous azaleas, despite my best efforts to keep them snacked-up and hydrated, the girls were a wee bit fatigued.

And by fatigued, I mean “Major Cranky Pants.”

I scrapped my plans for our Mommy/Daughters photo shoot. Instead, we went on a hunt for Thumbelina and her friends. Because if Thumbelina were going to live anywhere, don’t you think she’d live in the Enchanted Forest at the Norfolk Botanical Garden?

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Jennifer Tackett-Hilton

Jennifer Tackett-Hilton is a Virginia Beach transplant (originally from Iowa) and Old Dominion University graduate who swore she'd never date a Navy man.... but never said she wouldn't marry one! Jennifer and her Prince Charming have two adorable (and precocious!) princesses, ages 2 and 5, and one furry pooch, Eddie.

In the (precious little) spare time she has, she enjoys crafting, shopping for new craft supplies, and writing on her blogs, EverAfterLand.com and JenEverAfter.com. You can find her on Facebook at http://facebook.com/everafterland and follow her on http://twitter.com/jeneverafter and http://pinterest.com/jeneverafter.

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