Lilacs are some of my favorite flowers. Ever.
I didn’t grow up with lilacs. I am from Honolulu, and lilacs need cold winters in order to thrive. But the perfume is intoxicating and the colors are spectacular. Lilacs are everywhere in New England. They’re a shrub that is easy to plant, easy to move, and takes a lot of punishment.
The blossoms open any time from mid-May to the end of May. New England has a fickle spring, and it’s been known to snow even in May. For this reason, New Englanders love their spring and their spring flowers. The crocuses are up even when there is snow on the ground, some time in late March if it’s warm, and April if it’s not. After the crocuses come the daffodils, and after the daffodils, the tulips. The biggest show is the forsythia, which burst onto the scene some time in the middle of the smaller flower shows. After the forsythia we all get excited for the lilacs.
Because I’m a tropical gal, I am eager for winter to end. I associate the lilacs with the end of winter, the beginning of spring, and also with the other things that coincide with spring. When my children were very small, it was being able to take the stroller outside, onto the sidewalks, and to the park. You can’t do that when snow is piled up everywhere. When they got a little older, it was the opening of the outdoor pools. Then it was graduation season…dance recital season…the end of piano lessons until the fall.
When the lilacs begin to fade, I am in a panic. I wait so long, it seems, for the lilacs to arrive. I can smell their perfume when I step out of the car at night, having arrived home from another long drive down to swim practice and back. The lilacs represent nothing but good to me–until they turn brown. Then they are terrifying, because they represent time that is past.
My husband brings bunches in from outside and puts them in vases around the house. When the flowers wilt, he tries to throw them away and I screech and prevent him. “I’ll dry them,” I say.
But in the end, this is what is left:
Sometimes I keep those brown lilacs for months. For a year. And then I finally throw them away when I have more fresh lilacs to display.
I finally realized this year that this fear of letting go is something I need to work on. Not only is it preventing me from appreciating what I have right now, but it is also a bad metaphor for the children in my home.
Do I really want my children to stay children forever?
I want to whisper, “Yes!” But no, we don’t want that. We definitely do not want that. Once, when my eldest child was a newborn, I told my mother that I wished she would never grow up. She shot me a terrified look and said, “That’s frightening!”
She was right.
I still have brown lilacs here and there around the house. I’m working on it.