Love and Lilacs

When I smell lilac blossoms, I am fourteen again and lying in tall sweet grass with my boyfriend. His hair is blonde and curly, and when he smiles, which is often, his blue eyes turn into twin crescents. There are summer cottages just a few yards away, and people moving back into them, but we are tucked behind a tall hedge and no one can see us. We kiss one long last time before getting to our feet and then, laughing, we brush the grass off each others’ back. At the end of my street he pulls me close and kisses me again—this boy loves to kiss—and then he turns and starts walking down the dirt path along the railroad tracks. I do not take my eyes off him. Twice, maybe three times, he turns and waves, and though I can’t see his face, I know he is smiling.

Back east, where I grew up, lilacs grow like weeds. Each spring their branch tips burst into bunches of light lavender flowers that droop and nod in the breeze. On warm days, you live in their perfume. Tender and persuasive, the scent is like no other. There were roses in my youth, big dew-covered blooms lolling over white fences, but smelling them now does not take me back in time. Roses are not lilacs.

We were fourteen and in love. While I appreciate nature now, back then it was clemency, a place to disappear, and this boy and I were as much a part of it as the plants we hid among, all of us getting the same sun and rain.

I have not seen him in ages. Occasionally we write letters, share news of our families and jobs. He is the father of three, married to the same woman all these years. I am certain he is a good husband because I knew him as a boy, in ways that no one else did. His wife has him now, but his youth belongs to me.

Lilacs are not native to California—I bought the one I have. It’s in a pot in my backyard, and this year, as if making up for last, it gave me an extravagance of blooms.

I’ll be gone for the next two weeks.

!cid_53600A3A-788C-4284-8670-116317043E91@gateway_2wire

Published by

Jean Ryan

Jean Ryan, a native Vermonter, lives in Napa, California. Her stories and essays have appeared in a variety of journals and anthologies. She has also published a novel, LOST SISTER. Her short story collections, SURVIVAL SKILLS and LOVERS AND LONERS, are available online. STRANGE COMPANY, a collection of short nature essays, is available in paperback as well as digital and audio editions.

5 thoughts on “Love and Lilacs

  1. This one is so sweet and special , jean. What a lovely memory for you to have all these years!

    Are you off somewhere for two weeks ?

    Love

    Sandy

    Sent from my iPhone

  2. Dear Jean,
    This story has personal significance for me also, as lilacs are my favorite flower. Even though my memories of them don’t include a specific significant other from my past, they do include the images of their colors, the fences they hung over, and their smell. Why talking about it I can almost smell them now!!! Thank you for another trip down memory lane!!!
    Your friend always,
    Ray

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