Growing up, we had a pink lilac by the back door and when it bloomed, I’d stand under it, trying to surround myself in its perfume. My parents planted two more on the property border, one deep purple and one white. My brother and his family live in that house now, and while the lilac at the back door long succumbed to some disease or my mother’s change in floral taste, I’m pretty sure the two on the border are still there. I can see myself, at ten, or fourteen or twenty-one, reaching up to pull down a purple branch and burying my nose, enveloping myself in a scent that still conjures New England stonewalls, wet rain, and grass Kelly green in its newness.
The first house my husband and I bought came with a lilac bush, a cutting transplanted by a generous neighbor before we owned the place. For six years I waited for it to bloom but in one of life’s ironies, its first set of buds appeared about the time we locked that door for good and relocated, forty-miles up the highway.
When we moved into our current home, someone dear gave us a lilac as a housewarming. We planted it at the corner of the house, where we thought we’d get sun. We do, just not enough. Later that year, after trimming around the yard, we found two other lilacs, both white, posed behind a leggy Forsythia. One of those succumbed to what we call The Great Tree Disaster of 2013. But we still have two bushes. While thin and reedy, each year they offer up a couple of blooms, and always, there’s a morning in mid-spring when I find myself standing underneath, reaching up to pull down a blossom and breathing in.