Monday, April 20, 2009
Spring weather is here, weeks after the calendar pages claimed the season had come. We're enjoying warmer temperatures now, more rain, and blossoms are bursting with color. But something is missing in my yard here in SC....Lilacs.
From the time I was a little girl, I've loved Lilacs. My grandmother's yard had a couple of large, old bushes that bore the fragrant purple blooms and another that had white blossoms. The perfume of Lilacs on the Spring breeze is very clear in my memory. As I grew up, I listened again and again to one of my Dad's Harry Belafonte albums which contained a song entitled, "Green Grow the Lilacs". After learning it, it became my Springtime theme song.
Near our house in East Hampton, we'd planted a number of my favorite flowering bushes. We'd sit on the deck off the kitchen, drinking our coffee, and remark at the beauty of the blossoms glistening with dew in the morning sun. We'd pick some of them and take them into the house, placing them in a brown crock, filling the room with their pleasant aroma.
On one Spring morning, Mike had an appointment with a customer and I was invited to go along. On the spur of the moment, I decided to cut a bouquet of Lilacs to take to this woman I'd never met. She was thrilled, telling me that the blossoms were her favorites. She put on a kettle of water for tea, and then set about unwrapping the stems. I listened as she explained why she was crushing the ends of the stem with a hammer. "This will prolong their life in the vase ('vahz') because they will absorb the water better", she said with her British accent.
Beulah was born and bred in Sheffield, England. She'd been in the states for many years, working as an actress. She was the woman I knew from the Polaner Allfruit commercial, the one who fainted at the table when the 'hillbilly guest' requested that someone 'please pass the jelly.' As we sat at the table with our English Breakfast Tea, we had a delightful visit. I listened as she told me of her growing up and her family in England. We talked about gardens, she an experienced gardener, I the novice. She was wonderful company, and I wish we'd had an opportunity to visit more in the following years. Things didn't work out that way, however. I believe they moved from East Hampton before we did, and once, when I found a card with a lilac on it, I wanted to send it to her. Every search I've done for her and her husband's address have turned up empty. I don't even know if Beulah is still living.
Again this year, I hear myself singing, "Each time I see Lilacs, my heart breaks in two, because Springtime is here, and it's here without you." Every Spring when the Lilacs bloom, I reflect upon that carefree visit. I hope that, if she's still able to smell the flowers, Beulah remembers that day in her kitchen when we, two strangers, shared our stories, enveloped in the sweet perfume of Lilacs.