Oh the intoxicating scents of spring! What are your favourites? And what might they have taught you?
My husband B smells lilacs? Immediately he thinks of carefree childhood days spent with his older brother at his maternal grandmother’s place, where they played around one that grew in her backyard. This is our first spring in our city home and we’ve happily discovered two on the front lawn – one dusty purple, one magenta. I cut some, arranged them in a small vase and memories from age 10, grade five poured in.
It’s the Friday afternoon of the Victoria Day weekend. I race from the school bus, through the neighbour’s backyard and into my own, anxious to share my school day with Mom. She’s relaxing in a lawn chair on the back patio?! Not cleaning? Not baking? She’s talking with the vibrant red-haired English lady from next door beside our blooming lilac bush. They’re laughing, sipping lemonade, and munching fresh baked chocolate chip cookies like they have all the time in the world for such behaviour. This is a special day indeed!
That specialness floods my weekend. I’m outside as much as possible, not working on that social studies project about those boring explorers. But it’s due Tuesday, I haven’t worked on it at all, so it haunts as I tumble over the green grass, perfecting my walkovers, front and back. By Monday afternoon, a sick feeling in my stomach has me locked in my stiflingly hot and sunny bedroom, begrudgingly drawing maps of long ago journeys by men with names like Cartier and Cook. The happy sounds of my family drift through the windows. I’m jealous, distracted. I slap the project together quicker than I’ve ever done a project. I want to get back outside, watch fireworks later.
I did not get the best grade on that project. So, the smell of lilacs reminds me of two lessons learned. Victoria Day weekend (later renamed May 2-4) = A Lot of Fun. Procrastination = Not So Much Fun.
With regard to other blossoming tress, have you noticed those graceful delicate ones, branches laden with tiny blossoms that appear purple from a distance, but on closer inspection you see they’re actually pink? Early bloomers, they’re already losing blossoms and sprouting their unique round, heart-shaped leaves. For years I’ve been wanting to know what they’re called and this year I finally started asking and no one I asked had the answer. Perusing my phone recently, a familiar image of a tree popped up and this word: redbud. Redbud! Oh my. I should have known, I probably did know once, I must have known. While in grades three and four? I lived in Chatham, Ontario at 2 Redbud Drive. Every single house on the street had, yes, of course, you guessed it, even mine . . . a redbud tree planted in the front yard. For two full springs I played around a redbud tree. It wasn’t climbable. Perhaps that’s why it’s remarkable beauty escapes my memory.
And? The peonies are on their way. Bursting through the earth in similar magical fashion to hostas, but with red points, it’s the deep pink ones that have significance for me. When I was newly married to my late husband Hugh, our next door neighbour grew enormous bushes of them in her front yard. She told me, “Go ahead, cut some for a bouquet if you wish.” I did just that, then was horrified when the ants came marching out and all over the kitchen table. The ants help them bloom, you see, so I learned you must shake them vigorously before bringing them in.
Then Hugh’s mother grew them and I attached them to her: her lipstick colour (she had the warmest smile), the colour of her elegant dress at our wedding. She dug me out a portion of one of her abundant pink peony plants after it bloomed one year. I planted it in a side garden where it would get plenty of sun. The next spring? Oh joy, oh bliss! One sweet perfect flower. Hugh bent down to sniff it and I snapped a pic. That fall? Oh the hugest of all heartaches! That picture, one of the few of Hugh by himself (he always surrounded himself with people) became his obituary picture after he died suddenly and unexpectedly.
The next spring? Well, me and my three adult children were still pretty messed up and grieving (grief can be a painfully slow and lonely journey), but that peony plant? It was awash in gorgeous, humongous vibrant pink blooms.
I’ll admit, I was pretty angry at that peony plant at the time. You know, for so blatantly flourishing through the winter while my husband did not. But, looking back from the safer, calmer vantage point time has provided, I see the lesson now. Life, while tremendously fragile, really does goes on.
And guess what? While I no longer have the home that that peony plant grew beside? I have a good portion of that plant sprouting right now from the front garden of my new home. I wonder how many blossoms it will have?