Lilacs and Love

This morning I hauled up a dying smokebush, and planted a small lilac tree in my backyard. I chose lilac, in part, because it was my father’s favourite flower. (He also loved to praise the lowly piss-the-bed, but I tend to root those out instead of cultivating them.) So, I dropped this little tree into the ground, and it got me thinking about something funny. My mother also loves lilacs, and one time when I was little, my father and Uncle Ken disappeared down the dirt road and returned shortly with great armloads of bouncing purple plumes. I’m quite certain they must have stripped someone’s entire tree. Enough so that every room in the house had a vase or water glass filled with flowers. I don’t know who owned the tree, but they were pleased with themselves.

One spring, I told my husband the lilac story. After dinner he and his friend headed out for a drink, but they returned shortly thereafter. “No coffee?” I said, and he replied, “Come have a look.” I went to the car, and they were both smiling before they popped the trunk. Inside was a literal heap of lilac flowers, in full bloom, already wilting. While I thought it was a nice gesture, I was also slightly mortified. I’m not talking neat clips here. I’m talking branches. And branches. And branches. The better part of a whole tree. “Why did you do that?" I asked. "We had to go fast." They wouldn’t say where they got them, but I later discovered the location, and well, it was not a place where you should be stealing flowers.

My tiny tree is now tucked away in the corner of the garden. Every year it will remind me of love and thievery. Right now, it’s covered with flowers, tightly closed, but soon they will grow and burst and bloom and fill the air with that spicy sweetness. I’ll sit beside it and think of my father. And then, long before I’m ready to say goodbye, the flowers will be gone.