I always loved the outdoors as a child, and constantly brought in flowers for my mother (we lived in the deep country and I was always a decor hunter/gatherer..!)
But it is the lilac that was my first and favorite childhood flower. Lilacs figured prominently in my life...both sets of grandparents had vast quantities of them on their country properties and my parents' home had a huge lilac bush in the front yard that is still going strong (despite an overzealous pruning in my early 20's)
Nearing the end of this season's lilacs at our house yesterday...
But my first really poignant lilac memory belongs to my great-grandmother Susie, who died at age 97 (when I was 13). I do remember her well, including her love of lilacs (she lived in a grand old house and there were lilac trees galore on the property).
When she was very old, we visited her at the nursing home and Mom suggested that we bring her some lilac soap, as she was fond of it. When we gave it to her, she said "oh, that is very nice dear" and she smelled it and smiled at me. Then she asked if I could please put it in the drawer for her. So I went to the drawer and when I opened it, it was full of lilac soap. There must have been 5 or 6 other boxes!!!
At that moment, at that tender age (maybe 12), I think I had my first real private lesson in life and death. I felt suddenly so sad, so sorry, so broken, struck that the things we love suddenly don't have any use any more, that our life comes to a close. I think it was the first time that "the end" of life really occurred to me, despite having witnessed death before this. It was the first time it really hit me, I think.
It is a memory that has stuck with me. And scents can be such a strong memory trigger. So each spring when I smell my first lilacs, I am flooded with emotion. I think of Susie and her drawer full of lilac soap. I think of my mom, my childhood, our house, my grandmother. I am always so thrilled to smell them, like seeing an old childhood friend that you nearly forgot, but I am also somehow sad to see them as they mark the passage of time and remind me of life's impermanence. They are so charming, so pretty, and yet so very poignant...
(thanks for indulging this funny little memory that's been in my mind all week...I always miss home so much in the spring because it is so glorious there in the springtime!)