Crepe Myrtle? Go Ask Alice.

Jerry’s mother’s name was Alice.  She’s been gone since 1999 but she lives on in every single experience we have.  If I am limited to only one word to describe what Alice meant to me, that word would be “joy.”

NORWAY 1998.

Ever since we began planning our move to Sevilla, we have often commented on how excited (and nervous) this entire adventure would make Alice and how supportive and happy she would be for us.  A sighting last week of a flowering tree in Sevilla gave me another reason to smile and feel Alice’s presence.

Alice visited us everywhere we lived. We took vacations together a few times over the years and even took her back to Norway in 1998 to see the country her parents had emigrated from.  But this post is not about the return to Norway (which was magical), this is simply a story about flowering trees.  And the story began for us in Washington, D.C. in 1984.

It was Alice’s first trip to see us in Washington, D.C., and her first visit to the capital.  We decided to take a drive (about 3 hours south) to Williamsburg, Virginia.  As we drove out of town, Alice noticed a beautiful, small tree covered in pink flowers.

“What’s that tree?” she asked.

We had no idea.

We headed down to Williamsburg, checked into our hotel, and began our walking tour of the historic park.  A few minutes after we entered the park, Alice exclaimed excitedly, “There’s that tree again!  I’m going to ask one of those guides if they know what it is.”

She hustled over to two women in traditional (18th-century) dress and then came hustling back to us.

“It’s Crepe Myrtle,” she said.  “Or was it Grape Myrtle.  Oh, shoot!”  And she hustled back over to the guides and asked again.

“Crepe Myrtle,” she confirmed. In typical Alice fashion, she now knew both of the guides by name.

We continued our walking tour, visiting each historic building along the way.  The trees were everywhere.  “What’s the name of that tree, again?” Alice asked every time we spotted one.  I finally said, “Alice, maybe you just should use some kind of trick to remember it.”

She said, “Good idea.  It’s a fabric and a woman I bowl with.”


About five minutes later, we passed another tree.  “What’s that tree again?” asked Alice.

“What was your trick?”

“I don’t remember,” but she smiled so I knew she did.

“It’s a fabric and a woman you bowl with.”

“Oh, that’s right,” she smiled again and then announced, “Polyester Ethel!”  Cute.

Jerry said, “Mother, why don’t you just write it down.”  She did so.  Problem solved.

The next day, during our drive back to Washington, D.C., we could hear Alice in the backseat frantically searching her bag.  “Oh, shoot!”

“What’s the matter?” Jerry asked.

“I threw out that empty box of film I wrote the name of that tree on!”


Twelve years later, Alice was visiting us in San Diego (we had moved four times since that drive to Williamsburg).  We were living in a wonderful old (for San Diego) house and we were spending most weekends landscaping and gardening.  Our favorite nursery was Simpson’s, about 20 minutes outside San Diego in the town of Jamul (pronounced Ha-MOOL).  We were there at least once every weekend.  The place was so huge that you would drive the lanes of trees and shrubs, load up your car, and then drive up front to pay.  We were looking for a smallish tree for our front yard.  We headed up one row and Alice spotted a tree she liked.  “What’s that one?” she asked.  Jerry pulled up so I could read the tag, but before I did we burst out laughing and Alice said, “Oh no!” Of course it was Crepe Myrtle.


Monday, while we waited outside the Office of Extranjeros, I noticed some small trees just beginning to display their puffs of pink flowers.  Crepe Myrtle.  Alice is here.


Author: Moving with Mitchell

From Brooklyn, New York; to North Massapequa; back to Brooklyn; Brockport, New York; back to Brooklyn... To Boston, Massachusetts, where I met Jerry... To Marina del Rey, California; Washington, DC; New Haven and Guilford, Connecticut; San Diego, San Francisco, Palm Springs, and Santa Barbara, California; Las Vegas, Nevada; Irvine, California; Sevilla, Spain. And Fuengirola, Málaga..

15 thoughts on “Crepe Myrtle? Go Ask Alice.”

  1. What a wonderful story about an extraordinary lady. I smiled my way through the entire post 🙂

    I lived Near Williamsburg for a couple yrs, I know why she was struck by the crepe mrytle…beautiful.

    Loved this post my friend 🙂

  2. This is a very moving story, it must have been amazing to meet the man of your dreams and to have his mother be such a special person in your life too. Bonus.

    How did she pass, if you don't mind me asking?

  3. Very nice post indeed, Mitch. (I'd never heard of this tree before.) Good that you've truly got some positive and pleasant associations indelibly marked in your mind for whenever you see it.

  4. What a lovely tribute to Alice. She has found a way to follow and be with you and Jerry. All those run in's with Crepe Myrtle was no accident – she also found a way for you to remember and know she's there.

  5. Peter:
    That's definitely what Alice was and still is.

    Mind of Mine:
    Jerry was just the beginning. I have the most amazing extended family.

    Those trees are prolific!

    I look forward to checking out the show.

    Crepe Myrtles really are beautiful when in bloom. Thanks to Alice's joy for life, there are a lot of daily reminders.

    Alice was the most exceptional, kind, funny, generous, thoughtful, loving (and so many more adjectives) human being. Whenever I start to lose sight of what really matters, I think of Alice.

  6. What a fabulous story and a fabulous woman.

    And, for the record, it looks like Alice is all over our yard. We must have twenty or so Polyester Ethels around the house!

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