The scent of Queen Anne's Lace

I inhaled. Briefly, I was a young girl standing under sweet gum trees that grew next to the Rahway River.

Then, the river was called the river. The park, the park. The sweet gum tree had no name but its seed capsules were called sticky balls.

The plant that grew abundantly next to the warehouse sign on the way to the other park (the more distant park with the very good playground) was called milkweed. I can see my father cutting the milkweed with his pocket knife. I see the milkweed in my hands. It is a huge plant, and the sap is not milky. It is clear. Milkweed still seemed like a good name for the plant.

Queen Anne's Lace was a good flower to pick, though I rarely picked flowers. It could maintain vigor most of the walk home from the park. On longer walks, the stem just below the flower would begin to droop, but revived with water.

The blue one was tough. Once the flower was mine, the stem was bruised and my palms were red from pulling the stem. A tough plant whose flower were the opposite. They wilted visibly, and water did no good. Once my friend yanked a blue flower for me. I carried it for awhile, and when we began to cross the bridge, I tossed it into the river. She asked why I did that. I didn't know. I didn't answer.

I think the milkweed was probably Japanese knotweed. I now know the blue flowered plant is called chicory, can be roasted, is fairly tasty though bitter, looks similar to dandelion, and is not native to North America. I think my childhood understanding of the tough, pretty, blue flower that I tossed into the Rahway River from the bridge on Whittier Street was solid.