I was not a good papa tonight. Not only did Pip spend the day locked in the bedroom closet, where he'd wandered this morning while my back was turned, curling up in a tight little ball on the clean linens, but I was late getting home as well. I'd planned to leave work a few minutes early but once outside I spotted a small lilac bush and insisted on crawling through the shrubs to pick off a small sprig of fragrant purple flowers. I realized I hadn't had an opportunity to enjoy them this Spring and had just been lamenting the fact that I'd probably missed my chance for another year. When I saw them I couldn't resist and once I had them in my hand I held them close to my face, breathing in the scent which reminds me of my childhood and my grandmother. Driving home I felt nostalgic and eventually found myself at my previous job visiting for a long time with old colleagues.
It was nearly eight o'clock before I got home, long overdue. Dunc was sitting on the bed in the window, wiggling and yelping as though he thought I'd abandoned him forever. I carried my things up the stairs, my tiny clutch of lilac pinched in my curled fist. No sooner had I opened the door than Duncan jumped up on me, knocking the flowers to floor where he tromped joyously all over them, smashing them and scattering the tiny petals across the tile and carpet. I scooped them up and held them to my face one last time, thinking of Grandma and the smell of her yard all those years ago.
I leashed up Roo and took him outside. He pulled me downstairs and tended to business almost immediately. It was a long time before he was ready and when he was he knew where to go. We sidestepped the park and ventured down into Leawood. A warm wind came up, churning the leaves in the trees and waving across the long grass. Duncan kept pausing and turning his face into it, closing his eyes a moment in rapturous glee. Then he'd stare at the sky and the miles-tall cumulonimbus cloud which looked like the curled hand of an old woman, soft and white, wrinkled and cottony. Time and time again he did this, pausing to watch the cloud, which slowly unfurled, the fist relaxing, the fingers straightening and the palm opening to the fading gold of the sun like the secret insides of a flower. Ignoring the places he knows the bunnies congregate he pulled me down the street as though leading me in a specific direction. When we finally turned the corner across from the elementary school he stopped in front of a tall copse of white and purple lilacs, a mountain of them, all still new and wonderfully fragrant. He sat, turned his face skyward and seemed to smile at the cloud which had flattened out, one long finger pointing at us, to the place he'd led me where the lilacs still bloomed.
He sat quietly at my feet while I gathered a small handful, carefully plucking each and holding them to my nose, breathing in the memory of years passed. I don't know how long I stood there, eyes closed. The sun had drifted below the horizon and the clouds in the north and west had smeared across the sky, sparking with distant lightning. When he knew I was ready Duncan stood, stretched and led me back home, waiting patiently for dinner while I filled a small glass with water in which to place my treasure.
He's sitting at my feet now, licking my ankles and occasionally glancing up at the flowers resting next to me on the end table.
Pippin won't have anything to do with me, of course, and is no doubt planning the most opportune moment to retch on my pillow. It would be a bad thing but the lilacs somehow make it better before it's even happened.