Bouquet of the Week: Memories of a Bengali Childhood
As part of our recurring Bouquet of the Week series, Garden Collage continues to present a weekly inspirational bouquet that incorporates intriguing new elements into the traditional practice of flower arranging. This week, Garden Collage Graphic Designer Eidia Moni styles a bouquet to honor her native Bengali culture and her family’s poetic transition to life in America.
I spent the first four years of my childhood in Bangladesh. My father lived in New York, and my mother and I lived in his house on the countryside of Sylhet. In order to monitor my childhood, my father lived vicariously through the home videos recorded by either my mother or various aunts and uncles. Every month, a new video was sent to my father’s New York address.
In 1994, we moved to America– permanently. Living in a country, with a new language, no playmates, and most of all a life contained within a three bedroom apartment, I realized how much I missed home. Except, I had yet to realize what exactly I missed about home. During these moments, Baba would pull out a yellow bin filled with tiny cassettes. These were the type of cassettes that required a VHS adapter. We would sit side by side on the flower printed sofa, and watch a whole different life unwind on our television screen. These were the tapes of my childhood, ranging from infancy until my last month in Bangladesh. I watched myself surrounded by the beauty of our ever-changing garden, and realized how much the absence of it effected a longing for it.
There was a clip of my mother holding me, a four-month-old bobble-headed infant in a puffy green velvet dress. I was fixated on a black dahlia in front of me. The year my mother was pregnant with me, Baba asked for dahlias to be planted. They grew to be as big as my head.
The bouquet I composed for this post is incongruous to the flowers of that era; however, it alludes to the colors of my childhood. They are the shades of four years spent surrounded by flowers that evoke a sense of nostalgia, carefully curated through floral selections made by Baba. The deep burgundy black reminds me of the dahlias: the first flowers of my childhood. The soft delicate pinks with a hint of lilac from the peonies remind me of the Chinese magnolia tree planted near our main door. Again, a short video serves as proof of that memory. My aunt held me as I was once again dressed in a velvet frock (this time red). She was too fixated on the camera to notice the infant version of me: reaching over and plucking the magnolias from the tree. Eventually, Ma intervened as she noticed my attempt to eat the petals.
While the peonies serve as accents, secondary notes supporting the notion of nostalgia, the yellows of the sunflowers are the base note. They resonate the prominence of the different yellow hues that come from the marigolds planted every year in our garden. I always thought of those as “happy” flowers; they literally beamed in the sunlight. This bouquet of the week is dedicated to these kind of associations: I cannot recreate the specifics of a part of my life so distant in the past, but I am able to reconnect with it through the flowers I choose in the present.