Noriko, Age 48

Night-Blooming Jasmine

I can’t make rain fall or extinguish wildfires, but on the days when it all feels like too much, I can teach my body to do new things.

Noriko Nakada

November 28, 2022

Night-Blooming Jasmine At the start of the pandemic, we signed my daughter up for some virtual soccer lessons. After her second-grade homeschool lessons, we wanted her to move and to have someone other than us tell her what to do. Her coach helped her become the master of the ball and encouraged her to work on her chicken leg (weak foot). In short sessions in the front yard, she developed discipline for soccer practice. Around the same time, I planted some night-blooming jasmine in the corner of the yard. It wasn’t in bloom when we planted it, but I was hopeful that this tropical plant would bring the fragrance of Los Angeles to our small plot. The sweet smell of jasmine signals spring. Its pungent, floral perfume cuts through cool mornings and brightens LA’s June gloom. The pretty flowers pop up all over the city, their scent floating on the breezes as bright jacaranda trees bloom. This purple is the color of spring in LA, but jasmine is the scent.

In 2021, when the world cautiously opened up for outdoor activities again, the kids spent a few days a week playing soccer, and I decided to teach myself how to juggle a soccer ball. I’d pulled a hamstring racing the kids to the ball in the yard, and figured juggling would be easier on my body. I started small, a couple of touches with my right foot and then my left. I could barely string together three touches, but eventually, my control improved, and I could track my progress. 

Despite the ongoing drought, I have somehow managed to keep the jasmine in the front yard alive. It’s possible I shouldn’t be. The grass is withering, and we’ve planted native plants and sturdy succulents rather than flowers. Jasmine is not native to southern California. Spanish colonizers brought it here, and although I love its presence, it reminds me I live on stolen lands. As I keep the ball in the air for double-digit touches in the fading evening light and breathe in the smell of jasmine, I know I’m being selfish in keeping it alive. 

My daughter has surpassed me in so many ways. She is not taller than me yet, but she will be soon, and she’s faster than me already. She has a better first touch on the pitch. She passes and makes moves all across the soccer field. She even scored with her chicken leg the other day, but because of my stolen moments in the front yard, I can still out-juggle her. I can’t control much in this world. I can’t keep my kids from growing older or stop a deadly virus from spreading. I can’t make rain fall or extinguish wildfires, but on the days when it all feels like too much, I can teach my body to do new things. I can learn to juggle a soccer ball. I can plant beauty and breathe in its fragrance. I can keep the jasmine alive and watch my kids grow up. It’s not nothing, but it just might be everything.

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