The lilacs have been in bloom over the last few weeks - some of my favorite weeks of the year. They were a little late this year due to a very long winter. Everything's been a few weeks behind. But the lilacs finally bloomed, and I began to drive my family crazy everywhere we went.
"Look at that lilac bush!" I'd exclaim.
"It's huge! Look at all those blossoms!"
"I'd like to steal some of those."
I come by it honestly - the tendency to want to steal lilacs. My mother was a lilac thief for years. We had a lilac tree in our yard but it never got many blossoms on it. She didn't want to cut them because then it wouldn't have any. And besides, there would never be enough to fill up the house.
So she stole them instead.
Up behind the dry cleaners and beside the cranberry bog on Route 28 were some giant lilac bushes. Every year they were loaded with flowers. I'm sure what she took was never missed. And I really don't think whoever owned them would have cared anyway. These bushes were out of the way and I bet most people didn't even know they were there. Possibly whoever owned the property didn't know they were there. My mother would come home and fill vases and place them all around the house. I can still smell them, mixed with the damp salt air, if I close my eyes.
Once when we were teenagers, my cousin Lori and I offered to drive the get-away car for my mother's yearly raid. She put on dark clothes and we waited for the sun to go down. We drove her up to Route 28 and let her off in front of the dry cleaners. She quickly disappeared into some foliage. We made a u-turn and pulled off the side of the road to wait, ready to make a smooth get-away. After a while, she re-emerged. So much for stealth, we thought, as she came trotting across the road, a big white garbage bag over her shoulder, clearly visible, bobbing up and down in the dark. She never would have been successful in the world of serious thieving.
I have had the same luck as my mother in growing my own lilacs. They're kind of sparse. Never enough to really pick. But I've never resorted to theft. I just think about it every year. Especially when I go to church. Beautiful lilacs grow all along the fence of the back parking lot of our church. It's a long fence. I don't think it's as long as a football field. Maybe sixty or seventy yards though. That's a lot of lilacs. Every year I think about putting on dark clothes, waiting till the sun goes down, and sneaking over to the church parking lot. I would take a black garbage bag with me. I confessed this yearly urge to a friend of mine at church one recent Sunday. She was all for it.
"When you think about it, it's really kind of a waste to have all those beautiful lilacs there all week," she said. "We get to enjoy them for a few Sundays and that's it."
But I was saved from the temptation to steal from the church (which would be much worse than stealing from the dry cleaners) by my friend Judy. She grows beautiful lilacs.
"I heard that you love lilacs," she said to me one Sunday at church. "I'm going to bring you some."
And she did. I arranged them in a big vase and set it on the front hall table. They looked beautiful and they smelled so good. I could almost smell the ocean right along with them.