Last Wednesday I was blessed with the opportunity to spend the day at a beautiful lodge on a lake deep in the woods with a bunch of beautiful ladies for a day-long retreat. For once the weather decided to cooperate and we had the opportunity to walk the grounds, sit and dream by the river, and hike some of the paths. As I was walking around the main building, the wind shifted and I caught a familiar and much beloved scent ... lilacs! How I love the smell of lilacs. They usually don't bloom until June around here but we've had several days of warmer-then-normal temperatures and with all the rain we've had, it combined to produce a bumper crop this year. Their sweet perfume wafted on the wind and took me back to my childhood, our backyard, and my mother.
Growing up in Queens, New York, it was unusual to have a backyard, let alone a garden, but we had both as our house sat on a double lot. Part of the yard right outside the back door was cement and provided space for a picnic table, folding chairs and my Dad's sacred grill. Behind the house we had a garden that was not much on grass but blessed with bushes, trees and shrubs. We had two rose bushes, a hibiscus tree, and my favorites - two lilac bushes. When the windows were open to the afternoon breezes, the smell would tiptoe into the house and fill the back laundry room and the kitchen. Even as a youngster, I had a knack for flower arranging and my Mother would have me arrange the lilacs she cut in a vase to put on the dinning room table. Every time she walked through the room and saw them, she would smile. I think the sight and smell of them made her happy. She never did tell me why they had that affect on her and I never asked. To this day, whenever I catch the scent of lilacs, I remember my Mother and that smile when she saw what I had created in that vase.
It's funny how certain scents can spark memories. The smell of popcorn always reminds me of Saturday matinees at the movies. Coffee dripping in the pot brings back scenes in my mind of Sunday mornings and the smell of coffee that woke us all up. When someone in the neighborhood lights a fireplace or fire pit, I remember trips up to the hunting camp my Dad shared with some friends and our summer vacation sitting around a fire and catching lightening bugs. But I think it's the smell of the lilacs that move me the most.
Yesterday as I sat here at my desk working, I caught the scent again as the breeze picked up in anticipation of an incoming rainstorm. Looking out of the open window I spied the bush in front of the empty house next door that they are renovating. There they were in all their purple glory, more lilacs. When the guys come back to work on Tuesday, I may just wander over and ask them it it's ok for me to cut a few for myself. After all, by the time they get done with the renovations and people move in, they will most likely have already died off. What a waste! I want to take them up here to my little nest in the sky and arrange them in a vase on my table. Then every time I walk by the table, I can look at them, inhale them, think of my Mother, and smile.
And so it is.