Flower of youth

Ah, February.  With it comes my second favorite holiday of the year (we’ll get to my favorite in a later post).

Not difficult to figure out what day that is, obviously, so let me hasten on to today’s “memory lane” entry and explain why.

I love flowers.  All flowers, really, but certainly the flowers that start arriving in spring create the most dazzling mixture of colors and varieties to choose from.  Flowers for all occasions or for none at all, simply because they’re pretty and bright and speak of love.  Any and all kinds of love.

Where do I get this abiding passion for flowers?  Easy enough for that answer:  My Mom was a florist.  She owned flower shops for most of her (and my) life.  She had more than a deft hand in arranging flowers, though.  For her, it was about providing flowers to match the person and occasion.

Mom had plenty of art training from her education in New York.  She spent some time in dress design before moving to flowers.  Combined with a caring ear for the customer, she made some amazing arrangements and many happy customers.  There were plenty of times she opted for less profit and more flowers for that “special” case, for her flower shop was her heart and business many times took second place to pleasure.

I know these things because for many years, I would help her on the “big” holidays:  Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, graduation and prom days.   Those were the biggies, with a sprinkling of excitement around Easter or Thanksgiving.

I was reluctant to try my hand at arranging.  I was too afraid of clumsily breaking or destroying the flowers, but I could help her with the customers, both in order-taking and in sales.  Even during my college years, when a break would coincide with a busy time (like Mother’s Day often would), I would pop in the shop and pitch in.

Having a Mom who owned a flower shop was a great boon to me during my time at college.  There were plenty of gift baskets that ended up waiting for me at the dorm entrance.  Fruits and nuts and candies, oh my!  On a student’s income, those were awesome, even if I had to fend off ravenous roommates.

Another unexpected arrival on my first Valentine’s Day away from home was a dozen roses in a vase.  This led to much chatter in the dorm lounge, as you might expect.  Much of it was surprise and wonder.  For good reason, I suppose, for now it can be told:  though I was like unto a Roman gladiator, his name, sadly, was Nerdus Maximus.  Thus the prospect that one such as I would be receiving such a startling display of affection caught many by surprise (and created some envious glances from girlfriends of other cash-challenged college boys.

Now, I could have milked this for a while, but that’s just not my style.  Plus, it gave me an opportunity to advertise my Mom’s flower shop (many of the students at UF were from South Florida).  Sure, I got some ribbing about getting flowers from my Mom, but I got just as many compliments of my Mom being so thoughtful.  Plus, I really dug getting flowers.  After all, it’s usually only the women who get flowers on Valentine’s Day.

Mom continued the trend throughout my four years away and even for a few years after I returned to South Florida.  Perhaps I’ll relate to you the way I tried to honor her memory after she passed away, if I can figure out a way to tell it without sounding self-aggrandizing.

Over the years, I’ve heard some people complain about “made up” holidays like Valentine’s and Mother’s Day.  “I don’t need a special day to remember my ____” (fill in the situation-appropriate person).  “It’s just a gimmick to suck more money out of me.”

I say, “And what if it is?”  Is there something inherently wrong about universally taking a single day to thank a person you care deeply about?  Some of those complainers say they do that already.  That’s fantastic!  I try my best to keep up with everyone on their special days, also.  Still, I like the idea of ONE day a year doing something extra nice for a special someone.  I can safely say, as the son of a florist, people don’t get flowers every day.  They are always a nice surprise.

Valentine’s Day is fast approaching and while I’m not expecting a dozen roses this year, I still have dozens of wonderful memories of flower-filled days past and people that are special to me.  And I always make sure at least some of those people get flowers on Valentine’s Day.

If you haven’t decided what to do this year, why not look for a small flower shop run by someone’s Mom and order some flowers for a loved one.  Let me know if you’re greeted at the counter by a family member “just helping out”.  I’m sure my Mom would be smiling somewhere to hear about it.

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