If I weren’t a teacher, I would have been a florist. Back in California, I often made my friends floral wreaths for Christmas and birthdays. I never bought my flowers. I had my sources. One neighbor lady let me cut her hydrangeas in exchange for a bottle of wine. Another allowed me to snip leaves from her magnolia tree. A third gave me permission to cut branches from her holly bush. After a couple of seasons, though, I had to find another source for holly. I guess I’d been too zealous with my cutting. The bush died.
My first spring in Budapest, I discovered something that made my flower-loving heart turn a somersault — lilacs! I had never lived in lilac country before. California doesn’t get cold enough. Come this time of year in Budapest, you can’t go anywhere without seeing these fragrant flowers with their heart-shaped leaves spilling over fences and painting gardens lavender and pink. Lilacs are sold at every Metro station, and it’s not uncommon to see men and women carrying fat bunches of them down the street.
In fact, if Hungary were smart, they’d start giving lilac tours like the ones people take in Japan to see the cherry blossoms and in Holland for the tulips. On these tours, lilac lovers would be surprised to discover, as I was, that the lilacs in America actually have their origins from none other than this part of Europe! Yes, American lilacs have Hungarian roots. Literally.
One day, I wanted to bring some of my favorite Hungarian blooms home. A couple of lilac trees were blooming just outside the school parking lot where I work. Surely, no one would mind if I snipped just a few branches, I thought. So, I pulled my snippers out of my trunk (I always keep them handy, just in case), sneaked over to the trees, made sure the coast was clear, and started cutting.
After about five minutes, I heard a small voice. “Mr. Done, is that you?” I whipped around. It was Drew, one of my third graders. Dang! “What are you doing?” he asked. I looked down at the large violet bundle in my arms then back at Drew. “Uh…well…I…” I felt like the Grinch when he is caught by little Cindy Lou Who as he’s stuffing the Christmas tree up the chimney. Unfortunately, I wasn’t as slick with my comeback as the old Grinch. Before I could respond, Drew turned around and shouted. “Mom, look! It’s Mr. Done!”