Friday, May 22, 2015

First Word: Ellen Hawkins: Lilac

The scent of lilac is soft and intimate; it lingers without being intrusive.  Its colour, too, insists on being fragile, suggesting weakness or subtlety. Lilac doesn’t wish to call attention to itself; it must be invited to take its place on a lady’s bonnet in an earlier century.
            Today the notion of shy retiring females has retired altogether. Bring on bold pinks, helmets with bling, women’s rugby.  Before the advent of medical imaging, pregnant women were careful to purchase one set of baby clothes in a neutral colour; something that would do to get the infant home from the hospital.  Colour mattered: pink was for girls, blue for boys.  The idea was that the child could be identified in its pram without neighbors and strangers having to say, “Oh, what a pretty…? What it is?” Or the much worse, “What did you have?”
            Does this still happen? Not likely. Modern babies are born with their names.
            “Welcome to the world, Jane,” cries the midwife. “You look like a pale cabbage but no matter, a good wash and you’ll be ready for your public.”
            Jane scowls.  She’s known her name for the past six months.  She knows an intruder when she hears one.  This person has the wrong voice, the wrong hands, the wrong smell. Jane opens her mouth and howls.
            I have a suspicion she’ll hate lilac.

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