Lilacs in Spring
by Lysette Cohen
Dusk had begun to fall as I stepped into my grandmother’s bedroom. Her bed was empty now, but I could still see her tiny frame in peaceful slumber, her chest barely moving the brightly crocheted quilt as she breathed in small puffs. On the dresser, a lone vase was filled with wilted lilacs. Grandma had always smelled of fresh cut lilacs in spring.
A small sound drew my attention and my gaze fell on my mother, her eyes red and swollen, sitting next to the bed in the chair she had spent so much time in over the past year.
“Dad wants to know if you are ready for dinner.” My voice was low as I watched the shadows track across my mother’s somber features.
“I’m not hungry,” she said, reaching out to smooth a nonexistent crease on the corner of the quilt. In her lap rested a journal, the leather cover stained with age.
Fabric whispered as I knelt down beside the chair, my hand patting the cushion of her knee. “Where did you find Gram’s diary?” I asked.
“Under her mattress.”
We shared a momentary smile as she handed me the book. The binding gave a faint crackle as I opened it to reveal a photo taped to the inside. Slender ankles peeked from loosely rolled denim as my grandmother posed on a ladder, paintbrush in hand. Hazel eyes sparkled with mischievous intent as she winked at the photographer. It was a look I had only ever seen her give my grandfather. They were always happiest when they were together.
“Gram was beautiful.” I said, touching the corner of the picture before letting my finger trace the feminine writing scrawled across the page.
Mom smiled, her eyes softening. “Yes. She certainly was.” She glanced over at me. “You look like her.”
I smiled up at my mother as she reached down to stroke my hair. It was an action she had done hundreds of times in my childhood.
“When was this taken?” I asked, looking back at the picture.
“Hmm, must have been in the early 40’s when she and Papa bought this house.” Mom pointed at the half built garage, a skeleton of brick and lumber, peeking from behind the house. “Your grandparents built the garage themselves. Pop used to joke that being apart during the war only made their marriage stronger, but building the garage together was almost grounds for divorce. He said that separation may make the heart grow fonder—”
“—but too much together time was the death knell for any marriage.” I deepened my voice to match his husky basso profondo.
Laughing, we shared the memory.
“Look at how young they were,” she said. “How happy.”
I rested my cheek against my mother’s thigh as I heard the hitch in her voice and tears flooded her eyes. We sat in silence watching as the shadows lengthened across the wall, pulling the lilacs into the growing darkness.
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Lysette Cohen is a writer and musician from Phoenix, Arizona.