There have always been lilacs.
When I was a child, in the first home I recall, they bordered our yard.
As our truncated, customized version of a family moved from locale to locale, they were the first things my mother would plant. It didn’t matter that it might take years before their piquant blossoms would show; that we would have moved on long before the flowers appeared.
There had to be lilacs taking root while we lived wherever we lived, whenever we lived.
When we finally did put down roots of our own, lilacs thrived.
They grew in purple profusion, spilling their heady scent into our lungs, into our dreams, into our souls, into the languid California nights. The sultry heat of the Southwest drew forth flowers and fragrance that would forever be associated with the lessons of childhood.
And one of the most important was illustrated…by lilacs.
It started as a game.
“Find the five-petaled blossom.”
I and my siblings would scour the heavy panicles of purple or pink or cream or yellow to find…
Among the overwhelming presence of tiny, four-petaled flowers would lurk the stranger in their midst. The five- or even six-petaled bloom. It was special. Strange. Something to be sought. Something marvel-worthy.
“It stands out,” my mother instructed us. “It does not fit in. It will never be ‘normal.’ But…it is beautiful. It excels the norm. But it will always stand alone.”
Excelling the norm became our motto.
Standing alone became our fate.
My mother raised us.