Pepper tree in Shirley Bovshow's garden.
When I was a little girl, there was a huge California pepper tree in my front yard that provided me with hours of entertainment.
It was a multi purpose tree.
I climbed it, I peeled its bark, and I could "sneeze on demand" whenever I crushed the red peppercorns between my fingers and took a whiff of it.
I had a lot of fun with that tree.
The tree made me happy.
I didn't know the tree by its proper or common name back then- the Schinus molle, because as a little girl I didn't know that trees had unique names.
Trees were just "trees."
When we moved away from the neighborhood, I missed my perch on the pepper tree because it was where I sat and daydreamed about my future, and I daydreamed A LOT!
By the time I recognized a pepper tree again, I was an adult.
I met this special man at work named Larry who became my best friend.
Larry's personality was the opposite of mine, low key, soft spoken and he seemed to live life in slow motion.
I, on the contrary, exuded high energy, was outspoken and in constant motion.
Larry taught me to slow down and introduced me to hiking, mountain biking and camping.
Larry also reintroduced me to the pepper tree.
Larry and Shirley Bovshow enjoying a sunny day together.
Little did I know, (or notice), there were beautiful mature pepper trees on the street outside of our office.
Larry pointed them out to me because he was allergic to them and they made him sneeze whenever we were out in the parking lot.
At first, I felt confused.
How could I have not recognized the tree of my childhood?
I rushed past this "green blur" everyday, totally unaware of its presence as my mind focused on everything but the verdant beauty around me.
Larry's allergy troubles didn't end at the office, there was a pepper tree waiting for him at home too!
Larry bought his childhood home from his parents and was living there as a single parent with his two young daughters.
Larry's parents had planted a pepper tree in the backyard when Larry was four years old- the same age I was when I played with my tree!
Is there such a thing as bonding over a tree?
There must be because Larry and I got married a couple of years later.
The Bovshow pepper tree at night.
When I first saw Larry's backyard, my eyes fixed on the gnarled and weeping pepper tree.
Its fragrance warmed my heart and the weeping branches seemed to reach out to me like an old friend welcoming me back home.
I felt as though I was home again, as if I'd never left.
The pepper tree was a living thread that tied my past with my future and led me home and to the man I love.