Remembering Lilacs

Memory relies on sight, touch, and sound. Memories that linger on rely on smell. The sight of your childhood home will stir up memories.  Yes, a song can take you back to a summer lake during the teen years. The touch of a cool hand can still take a fever away. Smell is different. The smell of the first spring lilacs fill me with childhood, Grandma Woolum's house, a parade in Spokane, a field where a homestead once stood, and my home. 

I grew up in Kellogg, Idaho and smelter smoke did away with most green plants, but lilacs were resiliant. The back wall of our backyard filled up with the fragrant aroma of purple lilacs every spring. It was a beacon of hope after a long,dark winter and an equally long, gray spring. I look forward to returning home in a few weeks to once again breathe in my mom's backyard or sit in her house with a bouquet by my side.

Growing up Grandma Woolum in Spokane also had lilacs. Hers must have probably done better than those trying to grow in Kellogg. Again, perhaps it was Mother's Day or another time in spring that we arrived to see the lovely lilac blossoms in her yard. Spokane also has a Lilac Festival each year so as a child I thought Grandma must have been pretty special to have lilacs to honor this festival. Of course, about every house in Spokane had lilacs. 

I knew when I began gardens at myin own home I would need lilacs. I never had lilacs at my first home. I am afraid with the intense, hot, windy springs of the Tri-Cities they would have bloomed and been gone in no time.

We have places we take the dogs to run close to our home. Homesteads had been there. You can always tell because in the middle of a grass field you spot a clump of lilacs. All by themselves to live on their own they do quite well. I love the strength of lilacs.

My home now has lilacs. When I arrived that first spring to my newly purchased home I noticed a French lilac the former owners had planted. I like that type, but love the traditional lilacs of childhood even better. Soon I got starts from my mom's own lilacs and every spring I get to enjoy that favorite childhood springtime memory right in my own front yard. 

A few years ago I wanted a while lilac. They have a beauty of their own and actually a unique smell of their own. It is a nice addition to my springtime garden. 

Do you have a flower smell that evokes a certain memory?


  1. The lilac season in Eugene is miserably short, but every once in a while the fragrance will find me and I'm transported back to Mom's yard, back to Spokane -- much like you!

  2. Christy Woolum6.5.12

    I think the Inland Empire has just the right weather for lilacs. That beacon of hope in spring.


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