I was lucky enough to grow up in the Midwest, something at the time I wasn't too wild about. Minneapolis winters are cold enough to burn your skin so summer memories were and still are precious. As a pale Norwegian, being in the sun wasn't a huge past time of mine. Yes, I had my share of times at the pool lying in the sun which now I regret and wish I could take back. That ended when I was 15, not because I had a premonition that the sun would turn out to be very bad for our skin, but because I hated it. My greatest memory of summer would occur in early summer, walking home from high school. My walk home was about seven blocks long and it followed parallel with the Pleasant Avenue railroad tracks in Richfield, Minnesota. Sounds seedy! But it wasn't, because the tracks were shielded from everyone by a 20-foot wall of lilac bushes. Tall, gigantic lilac bushes for seven blocks. That's a piece of heaven. Richfield High School was located on the north tip of my walk and at the beginning of these wild lilacs. My walk was south, following the purple wave. These bushes were more like groves you walked up against and they were so incredible, so fragrant, that I can almost be transported now, remembering them. But they would die by June and school would end any way, fortuitously convenient. San Diego does not support lilacs. Our soil is OK for the plants themselves, but we don't get the winter freeze that the flowers need. In May of this year, I closed escrow on a house and got inspired to buy myself something fun. Fun meant a trip to Anderson's Nursery in Del Mar and I bought two lilac trees. Thin, wispy things, they were $75 each. They're did pretty well for a while in my San Diego backyard, but there were only a few tiny stems of the purple flowers. But they smelled exactly the same as the seven-block wall of lilacs that stay in my mind forever. Those lilacs against the railroad tracks are perhaps my best and favorite "summer is coming" memory. (P.S. I named my real estate corporation after them and after birds: Lilac Nest, Inc.)
When I really need my lilacs, I head straight to Julian and buy handfuls from growers who sell them in their driveways. Now I have the best of all worlds.