“What’s that smell?” I asked my mother.
“Lilacs.” She took several long, luxurious sniffs, too.
Mom and I disagreed about short skirts, curfews and whether Herman of Herman’s Hermits needed a haircut. Lilacs made us one in heart, spirit and nose.
I didn’t know the Greek mythology behind lilacs — that a beautiful nymph named Syringa (now the botanical name for lilacs) was pursued aggressively by Pan, god of field and forest. Frightened, she hid by turning herself into a lilac bush.
Who was she kidding? No one remains in cognito smelling like that.
Case in point: few spies practice this form of espionage.
Sadly, no lilacs graced my subsequent homes. I indulged in sniffing them at church, where an enormous grove dominated the side yard. Every year when the allergic choir director threatened to dynamite my beloved bushes, I trembled.
Eventually, I married and moved to apartments and houses with no lilacs. Fortunately, many neighbors owned bushes covered with bouquets of blossoms. While walking with my toddlers, I cautioned that we couldn’t pick the lilacs. However, if we were very, very careful, we could borrow the smell. If you had followed us on our regular alley rounds, you would have seen little girls — and their mommy — standing on tiptoe, hands clasped behind backs, sniffing lilacs.
Once, I discovered a new neighbor had axed my favorites. They lay beside the road crushed, like green and purple roadkill.
“You may be chief lilac sniffer, but your name is not on the deed,” Hubby reminded me.
So instead of vandalizing their house, I moved into a home with a big lilac bush. Every spring, I filled my dining room with luscious fragrance.
Supposedly, no one can kill lilacs, yet I did the impossible. Inconsolable, I figured if we could conduct a dozen hamster funerals in the flower bed, we could hold a lilac funeral. But no one agreed.
My husband planted another lilac. But the following year we moved, and I had to say goodbye.
We now live in a house with a rather reserved bush that poises its large lavender parasol of blossoms far above sniff level. Still, it perfumes the garden and even graciously offers a few clusters for my olfactory pleasure.
One sniff on a busy morning makes all the difference in my day. Amazing what a little lilac love can do.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What’s your favorite sniffing flower?