Monday, July 28, 2008

Grandmaw's Lilac Bush

My great-grandmaw Mary was always a special person to me, and besides my parents, was probably the person who most influenced my life.

Yes, Grandmaw Mary was a remarkable woman. I remember stopping by her house when I was a little boy, she seemed to always have something good to eat and just the right amount of encouragement for a young boy. I remember she made the best sausage links in the whole world, I don't know what she did to them but I do believe I’d give my eyeteeth just to have a taste of one of them now. My grandmaw Mary would often tell me stories of her childhood and the things she did when she was my age.

My great-grandmaw Mary (Kile) Burns

My grandmaw Mary was also a healer of sorts, if you came to her with an illness or “war wound” as she called them, she could usually patch you up in no time flat. If you had poison ivy, she’d tell you to go hunt her up a big piece of milkweed, which she would administer with the best of care. If you had a burn that hurt, she would say a Bible verse over it to take the fire out of it. Also, if you had a really bad cut, she could stop the blood by saying a Bible verse over it too. She knew all the plants on the mountain and what cured what. Like I said, she was an amazing person.

I remember when grandmaw got up in years, she went to spend the winter with her daughter in Baltimore. Grandmaw never did like Baltimore but knew it was probably for the best, winters on the mountain were hard. But first thing every spring, everyone would gather at the old homeplace when grandmaw came back to the mountain. Grandmaw’s only stipulation to her children when they talked her into leaving for the winter was that she had to be back in time to see her lilacs bloom. You see, Grandmaw Mary loved her lilacs, she had a large lilac bush that had grown on the property ever since her and granddaddy Don built the house in the mid 1940’s.

Grandmaw Mary's Lilac Bush

She once told me that she was a lot like that lilac bush, she might not be in the best spot in the world, but every year she saw the spring of the year as a fresh new start…a time for new beginnings. She said the lilac was a special thing and its smell was the sweetest of any blossom, and that it thrived even in the harshest of conditions. I do believe Grandmaw Mary was the happiest when her lilac bush was blooming, she made frequent trips every day to the bush to smell the fragrant blossoms and to taste them. I remember how grandmaw showed me how to taste the sweet nectar of a lilac blossom, it was ever so subtle…even the essence of the lilac was better than honey.

Can you taste the nectar of Grandmaw's lilac bush?

In the early Spring of 1988, the family decided to have some dozer work done in order to put in a bathroom. However, to do this, Grandmaw’s lilac bush would have to go. Since there were other lilac bushes on the property, nobody thought to get a slip of it to start it somewhere else, so the bulldozer shoved the bush over the hill and covered it with rocks and dirt. Everyone was sad to see it go, but we needed a bathroom. A few weeks after the dozer work, word came from Baltimore that grandmaw had fallen on an icy sidewalk and had broken her hip, she would not be returning to the mountain that year. As with many elderly people, a broken hip was essentially a death sentence for grandmaw, she lingered for nearly another year before she passed away, but she never got to return to her home on the mountain. I remember at her funeral, as we went to the graveyard where grandmaw was laid to rest, out from her grave a lilac bush was blooming.

Two years after the dozer work and a year after grandmaw’s passing, I noticed a green sprout of something growing up out of the rocks and debris that was shoved out of the way in order to put in the septic system…it was a lilac bush…Grandmaw’s lilac bush! I was overjoyed to see that it was still alive. I told mom and dad what I had found and they too were happy and said I could move it to the center of our front yard if I could get a sprout of it. I did and transplanted Grandmaw’s lilac bush to a spot in our front yard, where it remains to this day.

Even today in the springtime, I love to visit mom and dad when the lilacs are blooming so I can smell the fragrant blossoms of grandmaw’s lilac bush and taste the lilac nectar. I swear sometimes I can feel Grandmaw standing right there beside me.


Shirley Stewart Burns, Ph.D. said...

What a beautiful story! This sounds like a character sketch from a good Appalachian book. Grandmaw Mary sounds sweet -- and very special. How lucky you all were to have known her.

Tipper said...

Okay you almost made me cry with this post. Grandmas and their flowers. One of my earliest memories is being in the flower garden with my Mamaw. A bumble bee had landed on my sweater and I was to scared to ask her to shoo it away. I love the smell of lilacs too.