My hometown is known as the Lilac City. The pretty bushes can be spotted all around the area in purples, pinks, and white. Each year in May, the main event of the Lilac Festival is the nighttime Armed Forces Torchlight parade. It really is beautiful with floats and bands lit up in creative ways.
Another favorite of Lilac Week is the 12K run held at the start of festivities. Over 50,000 pe0ple participate each year.
High school students from area high schools makeup Lilac Royalty. My sister was a Lilac princess in 1980. You knew that right? If you were alive, you must know because it was the center of the world that week. My best friend and I ran from block to block downtown to wave and cheer my sister as her float snaked through the streets.
So, one year, I picked up my niece at her dorm for a walk through Manito Park, a sprawling, forested greenspace with a variety of beautiful gardens. My niece and I walked around the Japanese garden, then up the hill to see the Duncan Rose gGarden, but the flowers were still waiting to be in full bloom. As we walked on a path back to the car, we stumbled into the lilac garden in full, glorious bloom. We were surrounded by the scent like a light, fluffy blanket wrapped around your shoulders when you hadn’t yet noticed the evening chill in the air. This was a wonderful surprise! I thought my niece would love to hear all about her mom’s lilac experience as we strolled through the bushes, but not so much.
It’s been years since. My beautiful niece graduated university, moved away, got married, and now she’s getting ready to have a baby! Over all these years, I put myself back in the midst of the purple bliss in my mind. For this reason or that, I hadn’t made a return visit.
This past Saturday, late in May, my husband and I met with our sons to celebrate our youngest’s birthday at a very chicken-wing joint. Not my fav but all my guys love them. When we entered, both of our sons and a couple friends were enjoying adult beverages at a buddy bar in the elevated chairs, which means for me that I won’t have feet on the floor, which is rough on my low back and legs. My youngest is 23 years old. How can that be??? We had a great time with “the boys.” Gotta quit calling them that.
As we walked to our car, some kind of bug bit me and I suggested we should head south, away from home, to visit those lilacs. My husband questioned me, skeptical that this would end well. Doubts remained but off we went. On our drive across town, purple, pink, and white puffs dotted landscaping here and there. I was so excited! We were really going and this time I knew what immersive goodness lay ahead.
It took a lot of effort to get out of the car when we finally found the location of the lilacs and the closest parking. Using a cane, I was tired but doing okay on the rough asphalt path and it wasn’t long before we saw the first bush. I could hardly contain my giddiness. Moving from the pavement to a dirt trail was challenging but I was more determined than ever.
Using my cane and with my husband close, we entered the little garden. My hopes deflated quickly, like an elementary school girl who gets runner up in the spelling bee because she wasn’t sure how to spell ‘moustache’ and gambled on no ‘e’ at the end. (Yes, that was me in 6th grade.)
The bushes looked odd. I scanned the bushes and grass all around, trying to figure out if we’d missed the big bloom or if they hadn’ yet. Were the scattered bushes with full flowers on display delayed or stragglers at the end of season? Luckily, my husband doesn’t get cloud brain like I do with fibro, and he pointed out the plethora of tight buds adorning all the branches, much like the first flower posted above. While it is the end of May and the little flowers should have been bursting by this time. we’ve had a wet, cloudy spring without much sunshine. Sigh. There was still a scent in the air but my sense of smell has greatly diminished, so I leaned into a few fluffs to get a good noseful. Without exception, I lost my balance on the incline of the grass close to the base of the bush, more unsteady on my feet, and my husband repeatedly prevented me from falling.
Wow. What disappointment. The rainy days have contined. Once we have a few days of blue skies and sunshine, I’ll have to decide if I want to make the trek again. Two days following my big outing, I’m still recovering, shaky, unstable, and weak. It was tough to carry off first go round, but I made it. Will the memory continue to compel my desire to relive it? Do I accept that despite the flower driving an annual festival, I probably won’t recapture that lilac serendipity?