Yellow plumeria is by far my favorite of all the flowers growing in my yard. Not just because of its sweet fragrance, or its sunny style — if flowers had personalities, this one would have a most happy disposition — but mostly, I think because of all the memories.
There are lots of different varieties of plumeria in the islands, from the snowy white Singapore, to a bubble-gum pink, to a rich cabernet red. But the sturdy yellow, also known as graveyard, plumeria is probably the most common, and most commonly used for leis.
This is the most likely candidate to be the lei you will have draped around your neck when you get off the plane in Honolulu. Or at least it used to be, before the lei greeters discovered they could bring in orchids from Thailand in big quantities a lot cheaper. And that’s fine; most visitors are just happy to have the authenticity of fresh flowers hanging about them in the Hawaiian tradition.
But for me, even though there are plenty of leis more elegant, exquisite or dazzling, a graveyard plumeria lei just, well, means more. This is because I’ve been making, giving and wearing them since I was about five. They were the lei of choice for every single hula performance I was in during my childhood. When I was a sophomore and junior in high school, my friends and I made dozens of them to give to our older friends on their graduation night. Then — back in the days before airport security — we would see our friends off to college at the airport, always with a lei we had made from flowers we picked in our yard.
Nowadays we are far more likely, when we need a lei for some occasion, to run to the lei shop and buy it. But there’s nothing like giving a cheerful yellow plumeria lei that you’ve strung yourself — with aloha, of course.
This is the fourth post in my series, 31 Days of Life in my Hawaii. Click here to get the links to the other posts in the series.