a soft, lilac-scented breeze

The last time I was in the Sault, in early June was 1968; and I had forgotten about the extended daylight, the dark-green lawns and the ubiquitous lilacs – their thicket fill the yards. So this morning on my walk to my aunt-and-uncle’s all these markers of spring in the north-country were everywhere.

The west-end – from Goulais Avenue to Korah Road – is filled with lilac trees. This older section was full of Polish, Ukrainian and other Eastern European families. (Interestingly, lilacs are native to the Balkans. Did the early immigrants bring seeds with them?) Every house seems to have several lilac trees in their yard. And it was amazing to see that many lilac trees in full bloom. But as soon as I crossed Korah Road, the trees disappeared.

The area north and east of Korah Road is the newer section of the west-end. Houses in this area are from the 1960s and the 1970s; there are even newer subdivisions in the quadrant. Guess these immigrants, people like my grandparents, saw themselves as different, as younger than the Slovaks that filled the streets closest to the mill. And these immigrants were from Western Europe and they planted fava, rapini, and tomatoes. No one planted cabbage or root-vegetables; those winter-hardy crops belonged to the Polacks over there in the old section of the west-end.

The first time I visited Rome was in June of 1972 and the streets were lined with blossoming Japanese Lilacs. Their scent filled the city. I still associate Rome with that scent. And it was such a strong and lingering memory that when I bought a house, the first tree I planted was a Japanese Lilac. (It’s my very own reminder of 1970’s Rome.) My parents’ neighborhood in Sault Ste Marie is purple-blue with thickets of lilacs and their scent fills the streets of the old west-end.