Lilacs: A Memory

The scent of spring flowers suspends reality … but only for a short while.
I stumbled on a rare treat at the farm stand yesterday – lilacs. For a southern gal they’re a tease, everything I want in a flower in their sweet strong scent, soft purple color, and bouffant blossoms, yet they don’t grow in our warm climate. But George and I are in Carmel, California for a few weeks, and although lilacs are a rarity here too, every now and then we get lucky.

Like music and art, flowers and scents inspire memories. I can’t enjoy these lilacs without recalling a spring day sixteen years ago when George and I visited New York City for a round of publishing meetings.

Although I’d been there once (with my high school band to march in the Macy’s Day Parade), it was years before, and I was unfamiliar with the city. I lived in Carmel in 1994 and flew in a day ahead of George, who traveled from Lafayette, Louisiana.

It was Friday night, about 6:00 p.m., when I opened the New York Times:

“Dolly Parton: One Night Only”

Dressed in my best outfit, I walked to Carnegie Hall. There were people everywhere, and I waited and watched, with hopes that someone would have an extra ticket to the sold-out concert.

By 6:55 p.m. the sidewalk was empty except for me, a young man sitting on the steps with his head in his hands, and an even younger couple arguing on the corner:

“I don’t care if your dad gave us the tickets; I don’t want to go!”

I stepped in and pleaded, and he replied,

“I’ve got two tickets. The price is $80.”

I thought of the young man, still moping on the steps:

“Are you looking for a ticket?”

It turns out that his boyfriend was an understudy, dancing in a performance of Dolly’s latest hit, “Romeo.”

After a quick exchange with the couple on the corner, we made our introductions and ran inside where I sat third row center, between my new friend John and a stranger, Mayor Ed Koch. In less than a minute Dolly Parton skipped down the aisle towards the stage, and we (me, John, and the Mayor) sang right along with her,

“Two doors down, they’re laughin’ and drinkin’ and havin’ a party!”

“I love you, Dolly!” someone hollered on behalf of all of us from the balcony.

Without missing a beat, she called out,

“Daddy, I told you to wait in the truck!”

Later that night, following an excursion to Greenwich Village with John and the back-up dancers, I ordered champagne and cheese from room service, which I enjoyed while soaking in a bubble bath. I remember speaking out loud to the empty room,

“I love New York!”

The next day I walked thirty blocks through Central Park, from my hotel to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Following my fill of mummies, I strolled back along Madison Avenue, where I bought a large bouquet of lilacs. Their sweet scent filled the hotel room as I recounted my adventures for George later that day.

Today the smell of lilacs fills my office, making me dreamy and sentimental as I remember a magical night and write this post, wondering what George is doing on the other side of the house.

Turns out he too is working at his computer. But lilacs, Dolly, and New York are far from his mind.


Coming this Saturday: The Nude Figure, a post about the history of the female nude in Rodrigue’s paintings

5 thoughts on “Lilacs: A Memory

  1. Lilacs just happen to have and hold so many memories for me also. Growing up in Nevada lilacs were everywhere and the smell was the memory forever and still is. " Lilac" them so very much and just wish I was in the bathtub right now with lilacs, champagne and bubbles

  2. Oh Barbie — I can't believe you commented on my blog. A post from a real live blog-reading friend! (I just never know if you people actually are reading). Happy, Happy Day! I believe I'll take you out to dinner-

  3. Wendy,

    I see the 2010il graphic on his computer – is that something that will become a print for purchase soon?

  4. Thank you for your question. The Oil piece is something he was working on for himself, with no intention of offering it for sale. My next post (Wednesday, May 26), if not one soon after, will probably cover this very subject–

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