Archive for July, 2013

Just traveling down memory lane today, folks…

Shut your eyes the next time you smell freshly-cut grass — shut them and let that scent take you back in time and space. Where does your memory take you?

As for me — there I was, pushing the rusty old lawnmower through the ankle-high grass on a warm, humid summer’s day in Detroit. We didn’t own the fancy kind with an engine. Who would waste good money on an expensive thing like that when there was a healthy twelve year old girl to push the old one? It was my job to mow the lawn, and I (sometimes) liked it. The front lawn was pretty basic, just two patches of grass flanking the front walkway to the stoop, but the garage-less back yard was a different thing entirely. I’d push the mower down the skinny walkway alongside the house and enter a world of scent and color.

I had to be careful not to mow too close to the border of lilies of the valley, so aromatic, their waxy creamy blossoms arching over the edge too near my whirring blades. I’d mow around the sun-dappled Rose of Sharon tree just as carefully; I didn’t want to bump into it and disturb the bees humming deep in the pinky-purple trumpet-shaped flowers. There was a patch of wild violets hiding in a hollow next to the Rose of Sharon, beautiful tiny visitors my grandmother forced me to evict from the premises (I’d asked for special dispensation for them, but the judge said no). Further back, the snowball bush was in full bloom too; each snowball was comprised of hundreds of tiny white flowers, and every snowball was bigger than my fist. The bush had been there so long, it wasn’t a bush any more. It was gigantic, so big you could barely see past it to the lilac bush in the corner. 

The lilac bush was old too, and huge — it had become a lilac tree. The dowager lilac tree draped her purple robes over the rickety wood-and-wire fence that separated the yard from the alley and hid the telephone pole that secretly propped her up. The individual blossoms were every color from almost blue to lavender pink to deepest purple, and the scent of the lilacs in bloom was so strong it could make you woozy. I’d cut the grass around her, then come back with shears, and fill one aromatic vase that would scent our entire small house.

I was thinking of those lilacs when I looked up the old house on Google. Detroit’s bankruptcy is big news at the moment — a million people have left, and so has hope. They say one picture is worth a thousand words:


I wonder if the ghosts of flowers haunt the ghetto?  Do the gangbangers and block bosses ever lift up their heads and sniff the air, confused by the scent of lilacs?

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