Lilac.

There’s a lot of pressure heaped on the first delight to christen this blog. Is this the thing that is superlatively delightful above all else? Is there a ranking system? No, no, no. The delights of The Delighted Life are in no order. Some of them are more overpoweringly delicious than others (not all delights are created equal), but there is no rank or value system.
Several years ago I made a three-day getaway to that well-known vacation destination, St. Peter, Minnesota. (Any one who has been there is laughing now.) I was at the end of a semester of master’s work and I needed a place that was cheap, not too far away, and where no one would bother me. Since St. Peter is also the location of my alma mater, I thought an excursion there might put me in study mode.

Though it was many years ago, I vividly remember the afternoon run that I took one day as I tried to jolt myself out of a Justin Martyr-induced research coma. As I jogged along the streets of St. Peter I was overcome by the most powerful, exhilarating aroma: the lilacs were in bloom. The endorphins mixed with the fragrance and I was intoxicated.

When I got back to the big city (ha) I was relating the experience to my dad. I didn’t imagine he would care too much about it, as he usually brushes off my little observations with a polite ‘huh,’ as he’s on to bigger and more important topics, like the Fox News issue du jour. And I was really just making conversation.

I was wrong. Suddenly his eyes sort of lit up and he launched off about the smell of lilacs and his memories of the dark purple-flowered trees that dotted his childhood yard and neighborhood.

“We should get some. I wonder if we could grow them. We’d need a lot.”

Recognizing our mutual love, I encouraged the quest, and we bought seven small lilac trees that season. I suggested it might be nice to intersperse a white and pink tree, but he was stalwart against the very idea, being wholly committed to a full, exclusively dark purple lilac wall that, with any luck would, as he said, “make the whole neighborhood smell.”

Five years later we are still praying for those little guys to flower. But in my Philadelphia neighborhood, the lilacs follow the magnolias like a rotating theatrical schedule. Exit magnolias, tulips slide off the stage gradually, and lilacs step out for their debut. As I pass these robust trees (with a twinge of jealousy) I am tempted and compelled to stop and mash my face into the blooms to drink deep this transcendent fragrance. So far I have been able to restrain myself (I mean, what would the neighbors say?), but not without some conscious effort.

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