It only would take one visit, especially at this time of year to realize that my wife and I have a special love of lilacs. We have six varieties planted on our property. Some add additional colors -we have one that flowers white and another that flowers deep purple and each individual floweret has a white cross design. One makes a bold statement with flower heads almost three times as large as the traditional lilac. And two we planted because they will bloom just about at the same time as the others fade, thereby extending lilac season for a couple of extra weeks.
My wife grew up in the farmhouse that was purchased by her grandparents in the 1940’s. There was a huge lilac bush in the side yard. According to her grandmother, the lilac bush was already that big when they purchased the farm, meaning that the lilac was already a living “antique” by the time my wife was just a child. Our two bridesmaids in our wedding party wore lilac purple dresses; we have a picture of my wife and them posed by the farmhouse lilac that early June forty-two years ago the morning of our wedding. It served as a backdrop for dozens of family pictures through the years including other wedding couples, men in military uniform, graduates, children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. That lilac tells the many chapters of many lives.
Drive down any Wisconsin country road these next few weeks and see similar pages turning at this time of lilac bloom. A farmhouse without a lilac bush is even more rare than an honest-to-goodness wood-sided red barn. It appears that our ancestors first built houses, second they built barns, and third they planted lilacs.
That not only is true where the farmhouse still stands, it is even more true where the farm is now gone but the lilacs still stand. Maybe there is a section of fieldstone foundation wall from the farmhouse, or perhaps the barn. Maybe there is an old roofless stone silo still standing like a lighthouse that, rather than warn of danger, instead is a lightless beacon for the curious mind to pause and consider who it was that lived here, who it was that toiled here, who it was that loved here, who it was that turned this rich soil, who it was that grew up here, and who it was that died here? Whose eyes looked out their open kitchen window a hundred plus years ago on a warming May morning with delight at the lilac blooms? And whose lungs drew deep breaths, pungent with the heady perfume of these same lilacs? Ask the lilacs; they know the stories.