The lilac knows my name
David R. Weiss – May 19, 2022
As a child, I remember Mom taking joy in the many flowers growing around our yard. Dad did most of the work planting and maintaining them, but they were Mom’s special joy.
Which was manifold. Offered in appreciative gazes that savored their beauty with something akin to reverence. Evident in her frequent invitations to the rest of us to “go and see!” how this or that bloom was currently celebrating itself out in the yard. And on display in the cut flowers carefully selected to join us for meals at the kitchen table.
I remember bright yellow forsythia, red geraniums, and a colorful array of tulips. Hollyhocks that towered on one side of the house and impatiens that hugged the ground on the other. Cheery pansies that greeted you on the front porch and in the garden next to the back steps. Sturdy-stemmed rainbow-petaled zinnias joined the marigolds at the edge of the vegetable garden in the far back. And bright blue morning glories gleaming high above the pink-yellow-orange moss roses, both of which met the morning sun on the east side (then dozed the rest of the day), right below the kitchen window.
These flowers (and others whose names now escape me) marked the seasons – at least spring, summer, and fall – around our house. Our home. Mom’s flowers formed a floral frame that held the whole of our lives in quiet grace. As did Mom herself. But the lilacs. Of all the colors and scents in our yard, it’s the lilac that lives on not simply in fond memories but in the whole of my being. Somehow the lilac learned my name.
Out walking after a brief spring rain today I came upon a lilac bush at the end of our block. Or, I should say, the lilac bush came upon me, the light breeze carrying a fragrant whisper my way before I even reached the bush: David.
When I got to it, I leaned forward across years, decades, into a branch where I found a blossom just at nose level. A hundred tiny lavender flowers – a whole choir in four-part harmony in full-scented surround-sound: DAVID.
All those various remembered flowers evoke Mom. But, for me, the lilac uniquely holds the warmth of her hug, the smell of her love, the sound of my name.
There are not so many words that pass between me and Mom these days. Short simple sentences. The ashen remnants of uncounted conversations that often ran long into the night, now abridged by Alzheimer’s.
But in the delicate-thick-faint-pungent-sweet scent of lilac, all those countless words are woven together, still fresh and full of life. The lilac smells like home. Like life when Mom still had her wits about her.
Every spring the choral scent of those lavender flowers brings me to a full gentle stop. A wistful pause. A waiting grace. And I am always blessed.
The lilac knows my name.
* * *