This past April while visiting my parents on the farm I‘d grown up on, I wandered outside to drink in the feel of “home”, a comfort I really needed right then. I was used to sunny Southern Californian morning and the brisk early-morning Iowan air nipped at my nose, ears and bare hands.With my father‘s fleece-lined jacket wrapped around me, and my hands snuggled deep in its well-worn pocket I meandered around the spacious homestead when the unexpected sweet scent of lilacs suddenly called to me. Turning toward the bountiful hedge of lilacs in the distance, I spotted what looked like blooms. I hurried over.The lavender lilacs were indeed in glorious bloom! I pulled a plentiful clump to my face and inhaled the intoxicating scent, as I had done every springtime throughout my childhood. A warm delight seeped through my chilled bone and I smiled at the thought that spring had arrived!Strolling back to the house, the promise of springtime—warmth, renewal and beauty—journeyed right along with me.My father sat at the kitchen table, poring over the morning market reports.”It‘s spring! The lilacs are in bloom!” I joyously announced.”Lilacs in bloom or not, it isn‘t spring until winter is gone,” he contradicted. “We‘ll get a bit of cold weather yet.
But my heart refused to let the optimism that the lilacs had brought to me fade. Immediately, I recalled the card my mother had sent me just that past week—one that had subconsciously inspired this trip home. My mother knew that I was feeling down. On the cover of the card she sent me was a photo of a single flower emerging from a desolate barren slope of rock. The exquisite flower willed itself to have life, in spite of the conditions around it. Inside were the words “In the midst of winter, I found within me an eternal spring,” followed by my mother‘s words:”Spring has always been your favorite time of year. As alway it‘s within.”These are words that my mother, ever the optimist, lives by. Even in the midst of winter, she finds spring.”It‘s pouring rain!” Dad once said.”Everything smells so fresh after a rain!” Mom responded.”But I‘d wanted to get the yards mowed today,” he replied, obviously disappointed.”We need the rain,” she countered. “Now everything will be greener.””But the forecast is rain for the entire day,” Dad moaned.”Then we should go to the movies this afternoon,” Mom smiled.”It‘s so expensive,” he retorted.”That‘s precisely why we should go to the matinee,” she countered. “Three of the kids can get in free, and it‘s only half-price for the rest of us.”
Recalling this Rockwell scene of a Sunday afternoon when I was twelve, I‘m reminded that for my mother torrential rains produced a rainbow, and there was always a pot of gold at the end of it. I love her sense of joy and optimism. And her ever-ready willingness to share it.Throughout my childhood and over the course of my adult year when I met with succes my mother presented me with a bouquet of lilacs. And on the days when the lemons were so bitter they simply couldn‘t be made into lemonade, no matter how much sugar was added, like the day a good friend passed away; like the day when a long-standing love relationship ended… lilacs arrived from my mother with a note of understanding to match their beauty and sweet fragrance.”Spring has always been your favorite time of year,” she always reminded. “As alway it‘s within.”Even so, it was the lilacs made her words ring true. With the sight and fragrance of that April morning‘s came the realization of why a trip home was necessary. I needed to assuage my sadnes my feelings of loneliness and melancholy. I was pining. My dear daughter, now an adult, had moved into a place of her own. She now lives many states and many miles away. While happy for her, I mourn the loss of her nearness…That morning, the sight of the lilacs brought my mother‘s words back to life. They reminded me that in the midst of an internal winter, a winter that is within, I must recall the beauty of springtime and the scent of the lilacs. So I will not see her as having gone away, but rather as taking part in new and wondrous experiences in a world that has as many springtimes as winters.”Dad, the lilacs are in bloom. It‘s spring!” I assured my father that day.”Hmm,” he said, glancing at me, his expression skeptical. Noting my frown, his features softened. “Of course it‘s possible that spring has arrived,” he placated, smiling. “After all, like you said, the lilacs are in bloom.”Oh, for the ever-renewing beauty of springtime! And the sweet and irrepressible scent of the lilacs to remind us that spring is found within.