It is about 8:30 p.m. The sun has finally set. The clouds from this afternoon’s rain are still floating by in deep pillows stained with grey and blues. I keep my doo ajar so I can hear the last of the Robin’s songs while the Canadian Geese honk their approval of the tune the Robin’s are playing for this audience. In only minutes from now, the last sun rays from today will be gone forever. May 14th, 2020 is about to disappear for good. As I marvel at the thought of how rare this one day of spinning in the Milky Way galaxy is , I suddenly remember that I have a sprig of Lily of the Valley flower still in my jacket pocket from my evening walk. I go grab it from its hidden place and bring it next to me on my bed stand. The smell of its sweet fragrance was once a perfume that both my mother and I work back in the mid- 1970’s. “Muguet De Bois” it was called. That smell now once again graces my old nostrils with nostalgia even though the perfume is no longer in production. I miss that perfume as does my mother. Before I left to move here to eastern Washington, I found a a huge bar of soap with the Lily of the Valley scent. I gave it to my mother as a going away gift. She was so happy to receive it and once again smell the sweet little white bells of earlier days.
Another fragrance I use to wear was “April Violets” by Yardley. This perfume is no longer in production to my knowledge as well. It holds a special place in my life though. My Jene-Paul remembered me wearing the perfume when I first met him in our high school art class. We re-united after a thirty- eight year separation that often happens to young love. One day he found a similar perfume on eBay. I had to just buy it. That bottle lasted from 2011 to just February 2020. It was a large bottle of perfume. I wore it faithfully for him until our ‘second anniversary.’ The second one he should have been here for. Instead he only made it to our first real anniversary, which was February 29th, 2016. Six months later a drunk driver would take away his life as well as the one I had with him. We had chosen that date to symbolize all the years apart and the magic of coming back together on a day that only materialize every four years. On our invisible day, now made visible for this one year, I used the last of the perfume. It seemed like the right thing to do. I have kept the bottle only as a keepsake.
It was not though, the only bottle of Violet perfume that I had a special place in my history. Long ago, when I was still married to my first husband, we had five children together. While they were small, the Yardley version of the perfume was still in production. But as my children grew up, it was harder and harder to find the fragrance. Especially in the middle of western Montana where we were living. There was no online shopping during the 1980’s or 1990’s. So when my second son found a small bottle of the violet perfume for Mother’s Day, it was a most treasured gift to me. He had to be only about ten years old at the time. How he found it I cannot remember. All I know is that I used that perfume for only special occasions all through the decades until last year. Last year, I wore it for the last time at my oldest son’s Memorial in Minneapolis. There was barely anything left in it, but there was a tiny amount still good to be used. I stayed three months in the Twin Cities before having to move back to Southern California to deal with my mother’s newly diagnosed dementia. Before leaving, I gave that tiny, but oh so precious vial of perfume to my daughter in law, who was married to the son that gave that perfume to me almost forty years prior. I asked her to hold onto it for my eight year old daughter. For the day of her first date or some special occasion that she could wear it. It seemed like the right thing to do then.
Violets and Lily of the Valley are not the only fragrances that I loved though. They are the scents that my three husbands and all six of my children remember me wearing. Tonight, as I walked around the property, I discovered, on top of those amazing fragrances that come once the sun comes out after an afternoon rainstorm, my third most favorite fragrance. I found a very small Lilac bush with just a few flowers on it. I dared not to pick the flowers off of this bush though. I was just content to bend down and smell that sweet smell that I do remember. I have seen many varieties of the bush as I drove through Spokane last week. All I wanted to do was go pick their flowers. I miss dearly the days when I lived in places where I could cut every other day big bouquets of lilacs to grace my living spaces. My children knew that I was happiest with their purple, pink, or white blossoms sending sweet smells throughout our home.
My first lilac was actually from my paternal grandmother. We called her, ‘Nana.’ nana came originally from somewhere near Toronto Canada. Since my father was born in 1928, I am guessing she was born near the turn of the 20th century. When she picked that first sprig of lilacs for me, it was off her one and only bush of its kind in the yard and probably the whole area. Lilacs were not a staple plant to grow in Southern California where we lived in my youth. But her lilac plant was something she had brought all the way from Canada when she married my grandfather. I never did learn how she met him, since he was born and raised in the area. Nana did complain to me that it was hard to grow flowers off this plant since it needed the northern cold weather to make the flowers bloom. She felt that the only thing that helped them to bloom was the cold coastal fog. They only lived a couple of miles as the crows fly from the ocean. It was there that I fell in love with the lilac flower at a young age under 10 years old. It would be yet another ten plus more years as a young mother would I be able to find lilac bushes to cut flowers for my home and children. May was the month of Mother’s Day, of my oldest daughter, my second son, and my own birthdays. Lilacs were always in my home to celebrate our springtime special days.
The flowers were the crowning glory of our lives as well as the bounty of Springtime. I think back on all of these many memories as I leaned down to smell that little lilac bush. I love all the springtime rains with their occasional thunderstorms. The smells that grace the upper 45th parallel in the Pacific Northwest from the vegetation, especially after the rains is pure magic. A magic that I can claim as my own now. I also believe that somehow, the collective DNA history of my ancestors in my own self contributes deeply to the peace I experience living here. The smells, the vegetation, the landscape is a calming influence in my life right now. After doing a DNA test this year, I learned that my genetic past is from lands overseas in the Northern European roots of England, Germany especially. Lands that looks very similar to the landscapes I have known in Montana, Washington and Oregon. Never in my childhood did I ever feel comfortable living in the desert of Los Angelas. When I first took a trip in 1977 with my first husband to Oregon, only then did I feel my body relax for the first time. In 1984 we moved to Montana. For the second time in my life, my soul, spirit, whatever it is was finally at rest. I was home finally. Everything fit because this was where my family DNA came from. Though at the time I knew nothing about DNA memory past down from generation to generation. All I knew was that I had family history back over a hundred years in the area. They say that smell is one of the strongest bonds to memory. If that is the case, then my genetic family is finally at peace. For they are all home. Watching through my eyes, and the eyes of our children and grandchildren. Smelling the smells they too once loved to smell.