I am always fascinated by the way scent truly is the most powerful memory instigator--and for me that pairs with the visual lately, because I’m getting that Southern Spring feeling again. Each month brings a special scent and beautiful blossom, and it’s about at May that I start really noticing--hey, this same time last year the very same tree did the very same thing: sprung drooping blossoms of lemony-scented natural art. Every time I walk by it on my way into the YMCA, I sniff and take it in: magnolia. I am reminded that Mother’s Day is near, summer is coming, that school is nearly out, and that this time however long ago I was preparing for my wedding, or traveling across Georgia, or doing something marked in time by this blossoming tree, with its deep shade and twisted branches. I want to crawl up underneath the biggest one I can find, recline on a huge, old branch, and read.
The same happens when I set foot outside my door, and the unmistakeable scent of honeysuckle greets me. The creeping vine gracefully twirls around the barbed wire which encases the dog pen--and looks like the many doodles I drew as a child, flowering vines and pastoral scenes on the recycled paper my Dad brought home from the textile factory in which he worked (yes, we recycled well before it became fashion!). In my everyday Southern experience, I see all those things I envisioned on paper with crayon and colored pencil so long ago.
Another Springtime favorite--lilacs. I have vivid remembrance of yard parties at my Godfather’s house, a large bush dripping with flowers so fragrant you could smell them from the sidewalk. Getting closer to the yard I would hear before seeing the dense buzz of bees weaving in and out of what looked like grape bunches of blossoms. I so wanted to cut some and bring them home, but I was too afraid of the bees, so I would stand and watch and smell, mesmerized. We took our first communion pictures there, my cousins and I--by that hive of a bush. We played with our Easter basket boon, and swung on swings, and ate at the small picnic table, all within range of that gorgeous smell.
Come summer, Crepe Myrtle will vibrate with color--streets lined with those artful trunks, dappled smooth and rough, dripping like lilacs those bright blossoms, so impressive in numbers. It will remind me of when my parents finally visited me in Georgia and remarked on the beauty of the plant; of the heat predominating in June; of days when I pause to consider the sky and God’s creation.
Each flowering plant provides a transition, a time and memory marker, and and it’s no wonder on Mother’s Day we give flowers to those who mother us. Our mothers have marked our transitions for us all our lives, and sometimes we only just realize it, as a lovely land or skyscape can captivate in a single moment. The transition from womb to world was a big first one--but then there’s the firsts: eating, walking, climbing. There’s the first day of school. There’s the first heartbreak. Each season of our lives gets marked by a mother’s response--whether we like it or not!--and in turn this shapes us in some way. This weekend I honor all who mother in ways true and comforting alike--they taught us to blossom and mark time with our experiences. Mãe, I love you--thank you for all the memories we have made and have yet to make!