The lilacs are beginning to open here – just in time for Mother’s Day. Lilacs always remind me of Mother’s Day – one in particular when I was about six years old and gave my Mom a simple, hand-picked bouquet. My friend and I decided flowers were the perfect Mother’s Day gift. Six-year-olds don’t pick up the phone and call a florist to order a bouquet; they pick their own. And we did … from every garden from one end of the street to the other. Daffodils, tulips, and other flowers I can’t recall, but I remember the lilacs – lots and lots of lilacs; I can almost smell their heady perfume even now.
I also recall Mom giving me a big hug when I presented this magnificent gift to her, finding a vase large enough to fit the huge the bouquet, then using the opportunity to teach me one of life’s important lessons: no matter how good the intentions, you do not take what is not yours, and do not borrow without asking first. With my small hand wrapped in hers, we visited every house where I had picked flowers. As I hid behind her, Mom explained to our neighbors that she’d received a wonderful gift courtesy of her daughter ... and of their gardens. She led by example; she apologized first for me picking their flowers without asking. Then it was my turn to peek from behind the folds of her dress where I was hiding, and say I was sorry.
I’ve repeated this story to my daughters when they were about the age I was way back then as we’ve walked down the street, thwarting their desire to pick a flower or two from a garden along the sidewalk. Flowers are sometimes so tempting. Instead they bring me flowers pulled from my garden ... sometimes, in Shannon’s case, with the roots still attached. This spring, tiny bouquets of sweetly-scented violets that last about as long as the flowers are small, line the windowsill. A bouquet of daffodils has been on the kitchen table since the flowers first started to open a few weeks ago; it’s freshened and replenished often by Shannon as one variety fades, and another opens.
I talked with Mom on the phone earlier this week. We laughed about a lot of things; my recounting of the Mother’s Day bouquet story was one of them. “Wow,” she said, “I’m amazed you remember that; you were so little at the time.” It was a lesson taught with love, and one that is still as vivid in my memory as is the scent of that armload of lilacs.
Mom turns eighty-one this year; as it has so many times in the past, this year her birthday falls on Mother’s Day. I always have told her it means she’s a doubly special Mom. She’s taught me so many things over the years; I wish she lived close enough for me to just pop in, give her a big hug, and tell her thanks. I’d bring bouquets of flowers snipped from my gardens. No lilacs; even where I live now, those belong to the neighbors.
Happy Birthday, Mom!
And Happy Mother’s Day to you, and all the other mothers out there.
Bottom photo: iStockphoto.com/Denise Torres