Being the youngest child, and somewhere between the ages of 10-12, I was often tasked with certain jobs my older siblings (appropriately) refused to do. On this one occasion, while driving through a residential area, my dad pulled the car over after passing an enormous lilac bush. He turned to me and said, ”Go pick some lilacs. Go! Go! Go!” As bidden, I jumped out of the car, ran over to the lilac bush and tried to break off a few branches. For those of you who have knowledge of lilacs, you will understand when I say that this was an impossible task. Larger lilac bushes have very strong branches. Gardening scissors are necessary when taking a cutting. Having no such tool, I failed at the task. After 10 minutes, I was directed back into the car sans flowers. I am sure our lack of permission to take those lilacs played into that directive.
In his youth, my dad worked for a florist. I was often amazed by his ability to flawlessly arrange flowers. Although I never asked him, I suspect his love of lilacs originated with that job. Vibrant purple, brilliant white or any of the subtle lavender shades and ever so fragrant, they are beautiful flowers. But, as with many spring flowers, their lifeline is short. Where I live, lilacs come to life in May. By June, the lilac bush is barely distinguishable from other hedge bushes.
For many years after this failed foraging event, my dad and I would chuckle if one or the other said “Go, go, go!” I can’t pass a lilac bush without this trio of words ringing in my head. He’s been gone for 6 years, which I still find incredible. He gave me so much – his love of science, pervasive curiosity, permission to engage in petit larceny – and he is the reason why I will always stop to smell (and then buy) the lilacs.