Lilacs Bloom Every Spring

Lilacs Bloom Every Spring

From Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul

Lilacs Bloom Every Spring

When it comes down to it, we all just want to be loved.

Jamie Yellin, age 14

Today (here is my cue to sigh) is one of my bad days. Everything feels out of my reach, but I’m especially dreading my psychology class next hour. As a silly final project for the year, we are to bring a photo of ourselves that represents a truly happy time in our childhood.

The trouble was not in selecting a photo—I knew right away the one to bring. Framed on my desk is a picture of Grandma Sherrie, now dead, and myself, when I was eight years old. She had taken me on a lengthy bus ride to a lilac festival in the spring. We spent the afternoon sniffing, eyes closed, bent over lilac blossoms. The picture was taken by a really funny old man, who told us hilarious stories as he walked us to the bus stop late in the afternoon. We never saw him again, but looking back I wonder if he was smitten with Grandma Sherrie.

Looking at the picture, as I wait for my lunch period to end, I know my grandma’s beauty isn’t there in the photo—short, straight, silver hair, and large, slightly protuberant brown eyes. The nose is too big and the forehead is too high. She is short and a little squat. Beside her, clutching her hand, I am a smaller, younger replica. We even had the same narrow, skinny feet and unbelievably long toes. Had. Now it’s just my ridiculous feet to laugh at, except that I haven’t found anyone with whom it’s quite as funny as it was with her. When she died two years ago, I lost some of my reality.

So this is the only picture I could bring. I can’t miss an opportunity to bring her back a little bit, to celebrate her imprint on life. Even though I know that few, if any, will appreciate the gift I foolishly, eagerly share.

I sit down at my desk, feeling relief at arriving safely. Somehow the halls are where I feel the most isolated. Surrounded by people, I ammore aware than ever of howfar away I am from them. I have no one to walk with, or shriek gossip to. I see these same people every day, brush against them sometimes. But I don’t know them any more than a stranger on the street.We don’t even make eye contact.

As people trickle in, I sit with the picture in my lap, framed by my hands. Why didn’t I bring another? Why was I so sure my words could explain?

The teacher steps to the front of the room. I don’t like her any more than she likes me. She prefers students who stay after class to talk about boyfriends and complain about curfews. I stay after to show her articles about new treatments for autism. I’d like her to like me, even though I can’t respect her.

She asks for volunteers to begin the presentations. She smiles expectantly at me in the front row. (Where else would I be?) I rise to my feet, the ultimate volunteer-togo-firster. A voice from behind.

“I bet she brought a picture of her first set of encyclopedias.” Nope, sorry, that one’s framed over the fireplace.

Eyes, all these eyes looking at me with that blank stare reserved for observation without attention or thought.

“This is a photograph of my Grandma Sherrie and me when I was eight years old. She took me to a lilac festival. It was an annual event.” Event? I should have said something else. “They had all sorts of lilacs, rare and common varieties, pinks and purples and whites. It was wonderful.” Boring.

I looked down at the photo. The woman and the girl, holding hands framed by a tall hedge dotted with sprays of purple lilac blooms. The pair seems ready to march off and conquer the world, just the two of them in their sensible walking shoes.

“When I look at this picture, I can almost smell the lilacs. Especially now, in the spring. It was a perfect outing, and after we went home, my grandma made me spaghetti, and let me put chocolate sprinkles on my ice cream . . .” Getting a little off topic here. I’m losing the audience I never had.

“But it was a perfect day, um, like I said. It’s hard to remember another day like that as I got older. My grandma got sick when I was nine . . .” suddenly, there are tears on my cheeks. “. . . and she never got better.” Time to run, escape, at least sit down.

I thud into my chair, clutching the picture. No applause. The teacher abruptly, too cheerfully, calls on someone else. The class is soon over, after 10 or 12 years pass. I escape to the whirling chaos in the hallway.

Talk about a bad day.

But, like they say, there is always tomorrow.Which tome it seems to imply there’s no use in getting through today, because you’ll just have to do it again in less than 24 hours.

But here I am, tomorrow, at the door to my psych class, feeling like I just left. Only today, I’m late, having dropped a folder that spewed its contents with abandon. Everyone is looking at me. The day before I had broken two big rules. I not only displayed excessive emotion, but admitted that I really cared about something as inconsequential as a grandmother.Well, I’m invisible one day and the next the object of public scorn. Both unenviable life situations. I move to my desk. There is a paper shopping bag on the seat of the chair. Expecting a smelly gym uniform and tennis shoes, I look inside without thinking.

Oh. Oh. My God. I feel my outline melt.

The bag is full of lilac branches. I can smell them with my soul, can feel them with a part of me I thought had withered and died. Am I still in my real life? I look up (everyone is still staring blandly. But it must be one of them, some sentimental rebel in disguise). Which one?

I move the bag and sit down. The teacher is annoyed.

“Shall we begin, folks? Your presentations yesterday will be counted . . .”

There is a piece of paper tucked among the blossoms. I open it to find two lines:

We will find our right to be.
Until then, lilacs bloom every spring.

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