What the lilac lacks in longevity
Its beauty makes up with brevity
The fragrance is sweet as heaven
But gone by the month we call seven
The lavender flowers in profusion
Throw my memory into confusion
I recall my grandmother’s vase
Displayed on the table a show case
All purple hues spilling over the edge
The result of trimming the lilac hedge
The delicate flowers fade far too fast
Until they are spent at last
Plucked from the water and tossed
My memory ever fresh is not lost
And with a deep breath I can recall
Each lilac made of flowers so small
My grandmother whistling a bird song
Trying to teach me to whistle along
My father’s mother was a small woman. She loved to whistle. She could imitate birds, tunes from the radio, and even classical compositions. For several summers I would visit for a week or so and she would try to teach me to whistle. She would encourage me as I practiced even though I didn’t make much progress. I still can’t make anything more than a faint, moist, hiss.
She lived in apartments most of her life but I recall a house they rented when I was in second grade. That summer we visited and there were lilacs. Her favorite color was purple and it is no surprise that the lilac was her favorite flower (beating out the violet due to the wonderful scent). When I went into the house there were vases of lilacs everywhere! I went into her bedroom and her curtains and bedspread were decorated in a lilac print.
Many years later, when she had a stroke and was dying in a hospital bed, I sat in the waiting area with one of her old friends. We sat and talked about his garden. He knew about her love of lilacs. He told me that he had intended to bring her some but had forgotten when he got the call that she was in the hospital. He went home and cut an armful of blooms. I took them back to her apartment and put them in a vase on the table. It was his gift to her and without knowing a gift to me.
I’m a practical person and rarely if ever purchase cut flowers. I’d much rather plant something that will bloom. But the memory of those lilacs still haunts me in both a sad and happy way. We planted two lilac bushes in the back yard. They’ve never really grown and I don’t think they have bloomed more than twice in the last 20 years. Maybe this will be the year.
post-script: Sparky mentioned casually that he smelled lilacs and lo and behold there were a couple (somewhat anemic) blooms…