Olfactory Outlet

It completely shocked my system.  It’s too early for that!  Winter’s barely over!  How can that be?

But there they were in all of their violet glory.  Lilacs.  In April.  The mild winter and early spring tricked them into bloom weeks ahead of schedule.

Driving the jeep yesterday.  Topless.  Through older city neighborhoods.  Hauling a rattling pile of chandelier nuggets and serviceable parts of my old ceiling fan off to be re-purposed at the Habitat for Humanity salvage shop, i was jolted by scented whispers of their presence as well.

Is there anything more powerful than a scent memory?

Mom had a treasured lilac bush at the edge of the driveway.  Grown from cuttings she had harvested from her mother’s home, the bush would burst into bloom in late May.  Unlike roses, you can’t buy lilacs at the florist.  They are there and gone.  Once a year.

The end of the school year.  My birthday.  The beginning of summer.  The best days of my childhood… Right there.  Next to the driveway.

For over twenty years, i lived in a large suburban home on a half-acre of land.  During that time, i could have easily cultivated a fortress of lilacs.  My husband, however, struggled every spring with debilitating allergies.  The cottonwood was bad enough.  Adding anything with pollen to our yard was out of the question.

So i was relegated to theft.  Usually around Mother’s Day, i’d bring flowers to Mom, take her out to lunch, and then harvest my own bounty from that old bush by the driveway.

After completing my errand to the “Re-Store”, i decided it was time for a raid.  Last year, i assaulted the big lilac bush in the cemetery near my home.  Packing up scissors, a cloth tote, and my dog, i set out to bring home something to brighten my mood.

Walking over a slight rise, i expected to be greeted with a wall of purple.  Nope.  Gone.  It had started to get a bit wild, and was over-growing some of the old headstones.  The grounds crew must have removed the lilac bush.

Defeated, i turned to head back home.  Mr. Pickles bounced along the path, finding an endless variety of interesting smells to hold his attention.  But he had a rather grumpy companion at the other end of the leash.

Since the night was pretty spectacular, i also took the jeep for my evening outing… Off to a dinner party at a friend’s house.  Pulling into his driveway, i smelled them before i saw them – and was freshly awed by the power of the scent memory.

Presenting my host with a bottle of wine, i asked “Would you be horrified if i swiped a few of those gorgeous lilacs next to your driveway?”

Between the stems i harvested last night, and the bundle i snagged from a luscious blooming bush next to a parking lot on a very busy street today on my lunch hour*, i have my lilacs.  They’ll be shriveled and gone within a couple of days.  Tonight, they’re on the dresser in my bedroom… their scent like a tranquilizer, sending me back in time.

If i’m lucky?  i’ll dream the dreams of an unbroken young girl…

* i’d spotted them earlier this week.  Since Studley was driving on lunch hour today, he had to man the get-away vehicle, and keep watch, as i hopped out of the car to break off several pounds of smelly lilac blooms!  We avoided capture…