Motherly Love & Lilacs

Yule Love It's lilac hedge planted in 1989 from Mom's Kentucky cuttings 
Our hedge of white and purple lilacs is fragrant with nectar. The crabapple tree reaches above it and hugs our lot line. I hear our bees and smile with relief. They’re harvesting Nature’s sweet flow of life—and so am I.
This is hallowed ground where neighborly conversation has fallen upon the carpet of Lily of the Valley beneath the branches. I cut bouquets in remembrance of my mother.
Our first summer here in 1989, Mom dug up shoots from her heirloom lilacs in Kentucky and shipped them to me via my elder sister who lives in Lake Orion. Bless my dear mother. She knew my barren land and I hungered for color.
One lilac hedge of two survived my husband’s lawn mower. My father also had that habit. So I dig up sprouts and plant them to comfort empty places. If I live to a ripe old age, I may hear bees buzzing in several lilac hedges.
In former travels and foraging, I’ve observed Old Fashioned lilacs standing as sentinels in abandoned farmsteads. Tenacious and romantic, the flower’s name and story originate in Greek mythology and a nymph named Syringa, lilac’s botanical nomenclature. The beautiful creature fled from Pan, the lusty god of forest and field, and transformed into an aromatic bush. Smart girl.
For years I’ve heard reports of the magical tradition of Mackinac Island’s Lilac Festival in June. Tis on my bucket list. Meanwhile, I remember one remarkable April twenty-five years ago. I walked the streets of Paris with my husband and second born daughter. Parisians passed with nodding purple clusters in their arms. Oh, the honeyed scent!
I reenact that French moment and carry my cuttings into the kitchen. My mind’s eye follows our teenaged daughter as she navigates the Paris Metro. I sense again her destiny. A mother gestates and births her children; she nourishes and guides them, to let them go.
To Paris. San Francisco. Uganda. Chicago. New York City.
It is my instinct and responsibility to advise my daughters of the Pans lurking in today’s vast and rapidly changing urban and rural worlds. Ancient Greek and modern American mythology and law cannot shield my children from harm. They must walk circumspectly. Be wise women.
Their sister’s grave is one of legions that cries out against lies and deception. A most difficult truth to accept is that motherly and grandmotherly love did not overcome her addictions. Neither can my love save my surviving daughters from consequences of their choices.
           I arrange Mom’s lilacs and place the vase on the dining room table. Their perfume infuses the house with her charity and thoughtfulness. That my four sisters and I have survived my mother strikes me with awe and hope.
           Dear Reader, it is a promise from Isaiah. “For as the earth brings forth her bud, and as the garden causes the things that are sown in it to spring forth; so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all nations.”