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Where the Lilacs Bloom

April 2nd, 2013 at 10:00 am

Today’s Flyover People column as seen in The Emporia Gazette:

 

WHERE THE LILACS BLOOM

Winter can be a bully; it’s been shoving spring aside for weeks now.

Spring break is always cold and wet so that was no big surprise, but during February and March we often get a week of dancing-in-the-sun warm days. Not so this year.

The forsythia usually explodes in a burst of yellow around St. Patrick’s Day, but on March 24 of this year, each of my forsythia’s poor little limbs were stacked with three inches of wet snow. We had snow blossoms, but there was not yet a lick of yellow on that shrub.

The dominant seasons, winter and summer, call the shots. If winter wants to own October or flirt with April, if summer tries to give us heat stroke, we have no say – we’re just passengers in the car, along for the ride.

With its sometimes violent tendencies, spring may not be Miss Congeniality, but we still like to have her around. Spring and autumn, our transition seasons, are usually brief. They have shortened lives, crowded out by the narcissistic winter and summer.

Our forsythia bush is now regaining its composure, and our lilac shows signs of budding. For me, lilacs are the scent of the season.

Blooming lilacs are an everything-is-going-to-be-all-right flower. Lilacs are like comfort food for the olfactory system.

After we moved into this house, one of the few things I chose specifically to plant was the lilac. I didn’t know it at the time, but I bought a shrub that blooms both in April and August. Double the fun!

Anyway, most things that are good or bad in our lives have some connection to childhood. The lilac carries good memories for me. In our back yard in Pawnee Rock, my parents had planted three lilac bushes – lavender, deep purple and white – next to each other. They were big, healthy bushes and it was a gorgeous sight when all three were in bloom.

April is the month for lilacs, but some were always still around to use on May Day. My brother and I, and later my friend Amy and I, made May baskets for our Pawnee Rock neighbors.

Back in those construction-paper days, we wove strips of green and yellow paper together to make cone-shaped baskets and then stapled on a paper handle. We filled the cones with lilacs and other flowers. The part Amy and I most enjoyed was making a stealthy delivery. We decided on the recipients and planned our attack. Ducking around windows, we  attached the basket to the door, tried not to giggle, rang the doorbell, and then dashed away.

Those lilac bushes in Pawnee Rock also made a great hideout. It’s where Amy and I would take our peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for private picnics underneath the leafy branches.

On summer days when I was alone, I’d lay a beach towel on the damp dark earth between the shrubs and spend an afternoon reading a novel in my shady fort.

When I went off to college at the University of Kansas, I was delighted that my path to campus crossed a little street called Lilac Lane. The street was only about two blocks long and it was lined with lilacs. During blooming season, I walked to class, inhaling the fragrance in the morning, and again on the way home after working at my job in the library.

One day, I snapped off a few sprigs of the lilacs and put them in a drinking glass in my room. Sleeping rooms are tiny, and the fragrance became overpowering. I woke up at 3 in the morning, almost sick with the thick and noxious smell. I had to throw them out. It was too much of a good thing.

All through our lives, we carry moments from our childhood, good and bad. It’s fun to plant the good memories and nurture them whenever we can.

One of these days, winter will back off. April will bring the lilacs. And when I sit on my front porch or walk to my car, once again I’ll get to inhale those fragrant backyard memories.

Copyright 2013 ~ Cheryl Unruh

 

 

columns, nature, nostalgia

  1. Flips
    April 2nd, 2013 at 11:05 | #1

    OUR BRADFORD PEARS ARE IN BLOOM– & THE REDBUDS & DOGWOODS WILL SOON FOLLOW– & THEN THE LILACS– BUT I AM WITH YOU– WHERE IS THAT WARM WEATHER THAT WILL DECIDE TO STAY WITH US THIS SPRING– & I HOPE WON’T MOVE RIGHT INTO HOT- HOT WEATHER!! GREAT COLUMN AS USUAL CHERYL– THANKS!!!!!

  2. Rita Scribner
    April 3rd, 2013 at 00:49 | #2

    Another lovely column, Cheryl! Lilacs have always been my favorite flower, too. Ours was choked to death by poison ivy a few years ago, and our neighbor to the north decided to transplant hers to our yard so that we could both enjoy it. Amazingly enough, the transplant “took”, and it’s coming along nicely.

  3. Ralph
    April 4th, 2013 at 21:26 | #3

    Lilacs are also one of my favorite childhood memories – along with the May baskets. I tried to interest my children in May baskets but for some reason they didn’t see the appeal. I think it was the steal part that I really liked.