Tag Archives: Spring

Lovin’ Those Lilacs

My lifelong love affair with lilacs began when our family moved to a house with several bushes. Opening my second-story bedroom window, I inhaled a fragrance that made me want to write poetry.

“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.

One kind lilac loaner brought a huge bouquet to my hospital room when my son was born. Her logic: with another sniffer added to our family, her blossoms might not survive long, anyway.

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?

Springtime in the Trailer Park

On frozen days like today, I want to press my nose against the window pane, spread my fingers and push winter away, as I attempted when a preschooler, living in the trailer park.

When spring showed up for real, our mother would no longer imprison my four-year-old brother and me in snowsuits. She’d stop slathering us with Vicks® VapoRub ®. She’d let us go outside.

We didn’t dislike the tiny yellow trailer we called home. The kitchenette smelled like bubbling bean soup and love. Our play area: the closet-sized living room. We slept on the sofa, Ned at one end, and I at the other. Long before ESPN’s kickboxing competitions, we conducted world-class foot fights at bedtime — until the Head Referee called emphatic fouls on us both.

A little later, my sister, brother and I (pictured with my mom) all shared a for-real bedroom in a bigger trailer.

Finally, a hundred robins outside sounded an all-clear. Before sending us outdoors, Mom drilled us: Thou shalt not play around the railroad tracks. Thou shalt look both ways before crossing the drive to the playground. Thou shalt never speak to strangers. But the First Commandment eclipsed them all: Thou shalt not shed thy jacket.

Fully catechized, Ned and I darted to freedom. We stopped and looked both ways before splashing across the gravel road that circled the playground, the center of the trailer court and our world.

Paradise awaited, with a clangy old merry-go-round that spun us into an ecstasy of nausea.  Ned and his buddies defied God, gravity and their mothers, walking the teeter-totters instead of sitting. Kathy and I soared on swings, singing Perry Como’s hit, “Catch a Falling Star,” as we touched heaven with our toes. Sometimes, we all simply galloped like a wild-pony herd around the playground.

As suppertime approached, Ned and I picked up dandelions like golden coins to take to Mommy. When Daddy’s old blue Chevy turned into the drive, we raced toward it. Daddy stopped and threw the back door open. Ned and I rode home, waving to friends as if in a parade.

Eating soup and johnnycakes, we fought sagging eyelids like an enemy. We wanted to watch Rawhide, with our favorite cowboy, Rowdy (a very young Clint Eastwood). I wanted to sit on Daddy’s shoulders, eat popcorn and comb his wavy, Elvis-black hair. But it had been such a long, wonderful … spring … day … zzzz.

What do you mean, fall asleep? Not me! It’s springtime! That lazy, good-for-nothing sun has finally shown up. I’ve got more to-do items on my list than candles on my last birthday cake: garage to clean, closets to organize. Plus, a new book to write …

But first, I’m going out to play.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What childhood spring memories warm your mind?

Mom’s Potato Salad

When the first sleepy daffodils awakened, my mom made potato salad. In her eyes, spring was as good as here.

She taught me her dab-of-this-and-that recipe. Chopping onions wrung a million tears from my eyes, and my weepy attempts couldn’t begin to match her blue-ribbon results. At potlucks, I learned to avoid other cooks’ mushy, bland concoctions sprinkled with scary green things. Thus, I took part in the Great Potato Salad Controversy, far more extensive than I could have imagined at that tender age.

That reality truly hit home when, at 16, I waited on a restaurant customer who ordered German potato salad.

Retrieving the food, I called to the cook, “You forgot the potato salad.”

“You’re crazy. It’s right there.”

The manager corroborated the cook’s absurd claim: the sliced potatoes in gooey stuff with bacon was indeed German potato salad.

When, as a young married woman, I explored recipes, even American potato salad presented controversies. Some cooks insisted on real mayo, as if Miracle Whip were pushed by criminals out to ruin the purity of American cuisine.

Then yogurt and low-calorie radicals intensified the debate.

Add mustard versus no-mustard schools of flavoring, dill versus sweet-pickle/relish, mystical devotion paid to fresh herbs, and religion-sized chasms separated various sects.

Rewind to Mom’s potato salad. I wish she — and I — had conceived the lucrative potential of our culinary endeavors.

According to the New York Daily News, Zack “Danger” Brown challenged viewers of a fundraising website to finance his first attempt at making potato salad.

Expecting $10, he raised $55,000.

Thankfully, Brown was no potato head. He made a huge contribution to his hometown food pantry.

Click to enlarge.

Mom also fought hunger with her potato salad. She regularly filled up a large, voracious family. She shared it with lonely parishioners, troubled teens, ex-prisoners, domestic violence victims, and itinerant preachers. Occasionally feeding 30-40 people at one meal, she made tons of potato salad throughout the decades.

Today, chopping onions and staunching teary eyes, I remember a woman who gave not only cups of water in Jesus’ name, but bowls and bowls of the world’s best potato salad.

 

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What comprises your perfect recipe?

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: Nooooo More Snow!

O my God, “Happy Easter”? My yard looks more like “Merry Christmas.” This snowy Monday morning seems to have killed off any possibility of life. But OMG, when You make up Your mind, not even an uncooperative weatherman can stop Your Resurrection!

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: Daylight Losing Time*

O my God, thank You for seeing us through another time change. I feel for pastors, as yesterday was the crankiest Sunday of the year. OMG, shouldn’t the law that gave us Daylight Savings Time also fund high-octane coffee, plus three doughnuts apiece, to sweeten tempers?

*Title credited to Phil Callaway

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: Dumb Daffodils?

Oh, my God, I’m so thankful You made daffodils, though perhaps You might have given them a higher IQ?  I warn them every February, “Stay in bed!” yet these sunny optimists pop up, ready to share their smiles with a sullen, frozen world. OMG, maybe I should be so brave!

 

Little League Love

Fierce soprano voices yell “Hey, batter!” Super-sized helmets top skinny little necks. Pint-sized players wield mitts big as sofa pillows (and often about as effective).

A hometown crowd cheers and munches hot dogs and popcorn.

It’s the season of Little League Love.

Unlike most onlookers, my husband and I are at a comfortable spectator stage, our children grown.

So I can actually watch games, which I rarely did during my son’s baseball career. Like many moms, I spent years sitting on the bleachers with eyes tightly shut, only opening them when I visited the concession stand.

We fans really try to behave. But when offspring are involved, the most righteous dad sometimes lets loose a tirade. The gentlest, sweetest grandma grows fangs when the umpire dares call her grandson out.

Of course, I never acted like that. I do, however, admit to going a little overboard in motivating my child, egged on by another mom. My friend loudly informed her twelve-year-old that if he didn’t hit that ball, she was going to dance for the crowd’s entertainment. I informed my son that I would sing. High. And very loud.

Not only did our sons smack the ball as if their lives depended on it, we inspired the entire team.

Yet despite our critical role in the victory, nobody put our names on their trophy. Where was the Mom love in that?

A roar from the present crowd brings me back from nostalgia. On this diamond, where younger teams play, contact with the ball almost guarantees a home run and most successful defense is purely accidental.

The players appear deeply serious, but the coaches are less, and the crowd has a ball. Some mothers even watch with their eyes open.

They contrast with their glazed-eyed kids, several of whom snore at their positions, the sun having set. An infield player makes interesting dance moves, but I don’t think he anticipates a Dancing with the Stars career. He forgot to visit the restroom earlier, so the compassionate umpire grants a special time out.

It’s easy for me to laud the joys of Little League from my maybe-I’ll-go-maybe-not perspective. For parents who spend enough time to earn a college degree watching, waiting and transporting, Little League Love wears a little thin. But one sitting near us saw it as a win-win situation. If his son’s team won, they’d return the following night for another chance at the championship. If they lost, he could run a combine over his neglected lawn.

He’s a dad who cares, yet doesn’t care too much about the game’s outcome. And that’s the very best kind of Little League Love.

What’s your favorite kid baseball moment?

 

Froggy Fever

One sunny day, my husband and I, spring fever victims, rode our tandem bicycle past wetlands.

A hallelujah chorus of spring peepers nearly deafened us. Soggy Froggy City posted record decibel levels. Had these amphibians gone high-tech, renting rock-concert sound systems?

After compiling the results of a survey I sent them, however, I’m convinced frogs are musical purists who not only sing without artificial amplification, they don’t even open their mouths. Instead, they balloon their necks.

Unlike most human choirs, the majority are males.

These guys don’t waste words or melodies. They not only establish territories and predict weather changes with their songs, they also romance their ladies. Listening to their impassioned harmony, I wished I could understand the lyrics.

Then, remembering current Top 40 titles, I gave thanks I didn’t.

I’m not so enthralled with peeper music that I’d pay $75 to buy a frog online.

Nor would I pay $10 for flour beetles culture to balance his nutrition pyramid. I’ve paid more to get rid of such “cultures.”

Owners concerned about their pets’ boring diets can buy frog bites which, according to the Arizona Dendrobate Ranch, “add variety to a young amphibian’s diet.”

Many devotees will attend California’s American Frog Day. They’ll revel in frog symphonies, bet on jumping contests, even purchase driveway signs: “Frog Parking Only. All Others Will Be Toad.”

However, in 2002, the BBC did not consider frogs a joking matter. Intense headlines implied that killer bullfrogs had attacked Great Britain. Having eaten Parliament, they were last seen headed for Buckingham Palace.

Further reading, however, revealed that the bullfrogs, an American threat mistakenly imported in batches of water plants, were devouring fish and other small critters. Not a national disaster. But something else for which Europe can blame us.

If frogs from South/Central America invaded their territory, they might have reason to gripe. Poisonous frogs abound there, and those who flaunt the loudest wardrobes — gold, blue, orange, and black-and-yellow-striped — present the greatest threat. The poison dart frog of South America, Phyllobates terribilis, is arguably the most dangerous animal in the world. This little golden frog resembles a kindergartener’s eraser. But according to the University of Georgia EcoView, its slime is 400 times as toxic to a laboratory mouse as a king cobra’s venom.

For those who adore poison dart frog songs but prefer long life spans, CDs of their calls can be purchased online.

Me? I’ll stick to live, free concerts by less flashy, Midwestern types who stay in their swamps, go to bed on time and only give us an occasional wart.

Describe your favorite frog encounter. Or, like biblical Pharaoh, do you consider them a plague?

  • Spring Peeper photo by Joshua Derck, Photo By <a target=’_blank’ href=’http://www.flickr.com/photos/51109932@N00/32910893583/’>Joshua Derck</a> via <a href=”http://www.stockpholio.net/” target=”_blank”>StockPholio.net</a>
  • Bullfrog photo by Kevin Vance, Photo By <a target=’_blank’ href=’http://www.flickr.com/photos/23446980@N07/9703424655/’>Kevin Vance</a> via <a href=”http://www.stockpholio.net/” target=”_blank”>StockPholio.net</a>