|lilac bushes by abandoned door yard|
Photo by J. Harrington
My nostalgia for lilacs was reinforced on Mother's Day after we enjoyed a Sunday brunch in St. Paul. As we walked through the restaurant's parking lot on our way back to our car, the breeze carried an almost overwhelming scent of lilac to us. I immediately flashed back to grammar school and the bouquets we used to bring in to brighten up the classroom (and suck up to the teacher). Soon after three or four vases full of blossoms were on a teacher's desk, late afternoon sun and lilac aroma had both students and teacher nodding with drowsiness. The bouquets were removed and further contributions prohibited. A total ban was intended to bring equity rather than favoritism to the situation by limiting to one or two arrangements. Personally, I really enjoyed the way warm day-dreaminess of May afternoons loosened my imagination, before the powers that be decided a return to scholastic productivity was in order.
Lilacs, according to Jim Gilbert's Nature Notebook, will be past bloom in southern Minnesota by the time my birthday rolls around next month. By then I expect to see columbine and beardtongue brightening the local fields and roadsides. Grammar school was usually out for the Summer by early June, a wonderful birthday present in those days, as another school year faded along with lilac blossoms. Freedom awakened us from sleep producing studies of topics like Walt Whitman's famous poem while these days Joyce Peseroff helps me recall the simple pleasures of penny candy and lilac time in grade school.
Lilacs on My BirthdayThe flowerets look edible before they open,like columns of sugar dots on tiny stripsI bought as a child. Hard to bite the candy withoutsome paper adhering, as adding machine tape willto large, red numbers. Lilacs are like that: another yearunspools without major accomplishment,while I question "major" and "accomplishment."And when I find in Costco those clustersof pointillist pastel, I hope they will becomesomeone else's nostalgia—honorable emotionpropelling Ulysses toward Ithaca, and a womanto set lilacs in her dooryard as her mother did.
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