When I was 8 years old, the local variety store sold bulk candy for 1 cent a piece. Finding our way to purchasing and hoarding hundreds of pieces of smarties, butterscotch hard candy, cinnamon rounds, and bubblegum was our constant battle plan
My parents were among those who thought allowances were for sissies, and children denied them would have ample opportunity for brilliant imaginative and entreprenuerial feats. Certainly our lack of cold hard cash thrust us into a kind of agriculture...Late Spring and the Lilac bushes that lined our property, snaking their intoxicating scents throughout the neighborhood brought with them the golden chance for 6 pound bags of penny candy.
I remember well how we gathered up the neighbor kids and struck a deal. We share in the labor and split the profits. We needed every cute face we could get, and we'd fan out in groups knocking on everydoor on the block.
We piled our red Radio Flyer wagon high with our little bundles, bunches of lilacs wrapped in wet paper towels, and squeezed round (in that way that only small chubby sweaty hands can do) with tin foil. We scaled those lilac trees till they were completely denuded of all their lovelieness...then we took to the streets.
Our unsuspecting victims opened the door to a pack of dirt covered snotty nosed children with upheld fists of wilting blossoms. We had our sales pitch down to a mantra: "Hello Ma'am! We're selling bouquets! Only 25 cents a piece ("or 4 for a dollar", the mathematician among us would pipe up) and for a really good cause!!" And after fielding the usual questions of "Does your Mama know where you kids are?? and the exclamations of "Oh how cute! Fred, come see this!" we'd usually walk away with bank.
I will never forget the feeling of pride and solidarity as we walked home with our empty wagon, pockets heavey with loads of change. Chief amongst our thoughts (besides the mother load of candy we were about to experience, ) was that we had sold a product that had come to us by inheritance, from the generous hands of mother nature. It seemed in those lovely last Spring days of 1989 that all of Creation was on our side, the kid's side...and that the earth in her bounty was flowing with milk and candy.So the scent of Lilacs has always been for me, a scent filled with opportunity and romance. But it has also signified the bitter aspects of a swiftly changing life, a remembrance of youth...here today and gone the next, and also of the hard knocks of life. For when my mother came outside to find her lilac bushes ravaged and pillaged, and her children no where in sight she became a tad upset...and when the conquering heros returned they were greeted with a mandate to return every penny to the poor unsuspecting elderly population we had preyed upon with our saucered eyes in our suburb. And instead of a riotous trip to the local variety store, and the pleasure of struggling home again on bikes laden with swinging bags of the best life had to offer...we were grounded for going too far afield- without permission- in our sales...
Still, I can never look upon a Lilac without a solid measure of appreciation and gratitude. It was a Lilac that first taught me my Winter was over, and my Spring of making my own way in the world was upon me...a Lilac first breathed enterprise into me, and showed forth the generous gleanings of Nature are appreciated by this doored-up world. Behind every door waits a person ready to be reminded of the small fleeting beauties of this life, and of the glories of a world in the youth of summer.