The delicate sweet smell of lilacs take me back to old places.
My grandmother's house had bushes taller than my five year old self. They imprinted their fragrance on me, and have always evoked feelings of security and pleasure. We moved from the midwest when I was nine to a brand new neighborhood in California with cloned ranch homes and nary a blade of grass, let alone lilacs.
Perhaps they were too old fashioned. My parents planted other flowers and a small tree. The roses were the tallest thing in the yard when we moved again nine years later.
As a young adult we moved to Colorado and ended up in an established neighborhood of hundred year old two story brick homes with huge old lilacs hanging over into the alleys and over the fences. Every spring, I detoured my walks to enjoy the upside down purple, lilac, and white cones.
And when we finally bought a house with a yard big enough for them, I planted six in a row and waited. And waited.
Colorado springs are brutal to even hardy perennials. Bushes and bulbs pop up with promise, only to be blackened and shriveled by late frost or snow. Over ten years I babied those lilacs, covering them with sheets, or stapling bubble wrap around the buds if the weather forecast spelled doom. Every blossom, no matter how puny, made me gleeful. But I never had so many I could bear to cut and bring them inside.
This has been the most spectacular spring in Denver I’ve seen in our 28 years here. The warm early days of March got things going. April was cool, but warm enough for the flowering trees to bud and then open. I held my breath, expecting a deadly quick freeze, but the temperatures didn’t dip low enough to do damage.
First the crabapples set the landscape ablaze. Then the few redbuds in town finished their cycle and fulfilled their potential. I only saw two magnolias, small compared to the beauties in North Carolina. I cherished them for their rarity.
But oh my, the lilacs have been glorious! Look at this hedge, and it is only half of the total length. I bet that owner has only seen them bloom so lavishly a handful of times in her life. I point them out when we drive around town like a bird watcher spots rare species.
I can’t see any from my apartment, but I know where to find them. I’ve threatened to raid a few isolated bushes in no-mans-land but Bill beat me to it.
As finicky as cut lilacs can be, these have not wilted in the vase. I stand in my windowless kitchen, close my eyes, take a deep breath, and pretend there’s a bush right outside.