Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Their distinctive fragrance assailed me as I rounded the bend of the Chestnut Hill Reservoir trail with Linda, my best friend from law school. In Boston a few days in advance of Akemi’s year-end recital at the New England Conservatory, I had been enjoying the treetop cascade of pastel pinks and the riot of color presented by nearly ubiquitous tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, and narcissi. To come upon a bank of lily of the valley profusely blooming along the woodland path was a particular delight.

Just as I was about to leap forward for a closer look, Linda, a native Bostonian, cautioned me, “Watch out for poison oak!” Instead of climbing into the bank, I returned with my iPhone, content with a souvenir photo instead of a souvenir rash.

My mother waxes rhapsodic over lily of the valley, the flower of her April birthday. She wanted a bouquet of all lily of the valley for her wedding, her idea of the epitome of bridal elegance. (Witness the bouquet choices of Princess Grace of Monaco, various brides in the Kennedy clan, and just recently, the new Duchess of Cambridge.) But Weeder (remember him?) told her the cost of such a bouquet would be prohibitive, and instead she settled for a few sprigs combined with another of her favorite flowers, a white cattelya orchid, with an all lily of the valley boutonniere for my father.

For my April wedding, I asked Weeder to put a few lily of the valley in my mother’s corsage. He understood the sentiment and told me it was a nice thought, but he didn’t want me to get off on the wrong foot with my about-to-be-mother-in-law by having a different corsage for her than my mother, and he was afraid (again) of the cost of doing two corsages with lily of the valley. Weeder, you see, was protective in many ways.

When my mother decided to have a gathering to scatter my father’s ashes at sea last April (three years after my father passed away), I figured the appropriate occasion finally had come when I could acknowledge my mother’s love of this delicate, and expensive, white flower. As a surprise, I had Jacob Maarse of Pasadena recreate her wedding bouquet as a corsage for her to wear on the boat and at the luncheon that day. Afterwards, she dried it to save and said she appreciated it a lot.

I guess only royalty and socialites can afford bounteous bridal bouquets of lily of the valley, or perhaps those who have woodland access to them growing naturally. At least now I know of one New England place where I can enjoy them in their natural setting. I’ll look forward to making this walk again when I return for Akemi’s future year-end recitals.

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