It was an answer to prayer…it really was. I applied for a job at the Flower Cart in Falls City, and a week later, I had it.
I couldn’t believe my good fortune. How many years have I wanted to work at a Florist’s Shop! It was a dream come true–to work amongst the “little people” with upturned faces…daisies, roses, pixie carnations and the lovely Gerbera’s…Gerber Babies, as I call them. They’re like fragile children and I’ve loved them from the first moment I saw them looking up at me.
I talk to the flowers when there’s no one around. I don’t know what folks must think of me when they find me whispering to the Pixies and Chocolate Kiss roses…but no one has said anything. Not yet.
My new boss, Linda, is one of the nicest ladies in Falls City. Like a radiant Pixie flower, herself, she runs her shop with a cool head and a warm heart. Her customers aren’t just clients. They are her loyal friends. She greets them by name as they come through the door.
“Oh my dear Jan,” she’ll say. “It’s been a while since we’ve seen you! How are the grandbabies? And the puppies, of course….?” She knows them all. Knows their kids, their pets, their parents…Knows if they’ve been sick or well. It’s the duty of a florist to know these things.
From the very first day, I was fascinated by the mysterious workings of a flower shop. Andrea, the designer, was there–weaving magic with her fingertips. I watched in awe as simple petals turned into magnificent creations before my eyes. They were breathtaking.
How would I ever learn to do that?!
I studied the arrangements. I took notes in my ever-present notebook. But eventually Andrea put a stop to my incessant note-taking. “Put down the pen and paper, Vic. You’ve got to do this hands-on.”
Andrea was tolerant of my first attempts at flower arranging. Her patient heart is made of gold…and it’s a good thing, too. I’m such a novice. I did bouquets in Home Ec class, but that was a hundred years ago.
“Relax!” Andrea said. “It’ll come to you. Just notice the way the flower stem flows…” With sure hands, Andrea reached for my bouquet, rescuing the babies from my torturous fingers. The blossoms responded to her touch. A moment later my dysfunctional arrangement had become a thing of beauty, rather than a hodge-podge of anxious flowers.
Apparently, they haven’t learned to trust me yet–these fragile children nestled amongst the babies’ breath…But Andrea assures me that someday they will–then I, too, will weave magic with my fingertips.
There’s so much to learn! So many wrong ways of doing things. I fuss quietly to myself, worried that I may never learn the mysteries of greening-up a basket with Pitsaporium and Sallal…
Then there are the mysteries of Mylar balloons and ribbons and winding the tendrils of raffea on a hot curling-iron. The mysteries of working at the front desk…business transactions…Teleflora wire service.
Oh dear. Oh dear.
The gals left me alone in the shop, one day, not long after I started working there. Linda and Andrea left me wallowing in ignorance at the front desk. They had to go to the cemetery for something.
“Tell the customers to come back in 15 minutes when we return,” they said. “You can handle it, Vic.”
I wasn’t so sure.
I watched them go uneasily, knowing that calamity could descend on me at any moment. Murphy’s law has a way of finding me, no matter where I hide. It could easily find me here, perched on a stool at the Flower Cart.
Sure enough. The gals were hardly gone a few moments, when the front door opened and a customer entered from the cobblestone street. A lovely lady. I knew I’d have a hard time telling her I couldn’t help her….That I was really just a stooge sitting on a stool–unlearned in the ways of the cash register and business transactions.
The lady smiled at me, but she looked a bit sad, too. “All I need is a rose,” she said.
I started to say that she’d have to wait for the owner to come back, but her next words stopped me.
“I want a single Chocolate Kiss rose to place on Jacob Fritz’s grave,” she said. “You know the soldier who died in Iraq?”
I nodded, my words sticking in my throat…Jacob Fritz, one of our local heroes. He’d died in a tragic ambush a year ago in January. Had died fighting for an American cause. And I couldn’t help to honor him…Couldn’t sell a rose for his grave, because I didn’t know how to open the wretched cash register.
I felt terrible.
“Um,” I said, stalling for time. I explained the situation to the lady as best I could.
She nodded graciously. “I can leave you the exact change,” she said. “And I can fill out the sales slip, myself. I used to work at a place like this.”
I’m not sure how, but in the next few minutes, the two of us managed to complete the transaction. She even created a lovely ribbon to tie around the rose.
We stood looking at the flower, bedecked in its gingham ribbon. An afternoon sunbeam slanted through the window, polishing the rose petals to a high sheen. The flower came alive with color…a golden brown rose, rich in sweetness and symbolism. Special moments and phantom memories–they were all there, tied up in the embrace of a florist’s ribbon…Loving memories cut short by an untimely death in distant lands.
How much we take for granted, I thought, staring at the Chocolate Kiss rose. Our soldiers risk all to do what our country has called on them to do…They suffer blown-off limbs, mental anguish, and shattered lives. They’ve died by the thousands, and have been injured by the tens of thousands….
But we’re hardly even conscious of their sacrifice.
I touched the rose’s soft petals. Soon the flower would wither away and die, just like many of our brave young soldiers, languishing in cold graves somewhere….
The woman gave me her money, and I watched her take the rose and leave–the lovely lady with a sad smile, heading for the cemetery.
I turned to look at all the other roses standing tall and serene in their vases. They, too, awaited a grave to rest upon…Phantom memories to embrace. There were weddings to adorn, and graduations to attend. Anniversaries, birthdays, confirmations and funerals… celebrations of both life and death.
I went to straighten the bouquets in the cooler, pausing to drink in the beauty around me. The fragrance of roses and Alstramaria blossoms. Fresh-faced daisies, and the lovely Gerberas. The glint of sunshine on our windowfront display.
Outside, passersby lingered to admire the sparkle of our window decor, and from the cobblestone on Stone Street came the sounds of joy and laughter.
The axis of our world pivots around a Florist’s chambers. The cadence, the rhythm of planet Earth: war and peace, hope and romance, laughter and tears, living and dying… The factors that make up our lives.
It’s a Florist’s legacy…a celebration of life, itself.
It is the saga of a Flower Shop.