The Language of Flowers

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It is all I can do to focus; the flower vase carried wherever I move in our house.  The tears won’t stop flowing.

Daisies are the fifth most favorite flower in the world.  They signify innocence, purity; friendship.  They are ranked after roses, carnations, chrysanthemums and tulips.  I have been given many floral arrangements over the years.  But they are a guilty pleasure; a luxury.  Fresh cut flowers always die.

The book above is one of my favorites; a story of how love can conquer obstacles.  It is through flowers that the characters convey their thoughts; the Victorian meanings relaying messages.    This novel came up in conversation as I drank tea and speared my beloved Chinese eggplant.  This book had been recommended by two friends; the girlfriend I visited recently in San Diego and the one who sat across from me, yesterday at lunch; chattering in Mandarin to the waiter.   We were catching up on our children; the tween/teens and how they are neurologically wired to be impulsive; moody.  They can’t help it.  It is part of human revolution; hormones raging.  Though it is no excuse for their, sometimes erratic/baffling behavior, it is what it is.   My other girlfriend, the always tactful one, poured tea with Asian hospitality.  I grinned at my girlfriend; the one I have known since our teens were five.   A bustling image of my mother came to mind.  I need to remember her ways.

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Over the years of our courtship, our marriage, the hubs knows he can rarely catch me by surprise.  Two days prior we discussed how to celebrate our anniversary, mid-week with triple digit temps.  What do you want to do?  Since it is was our crystal anniversary year I thought of flowers in crystal vases,  BUT the flowers would die and we already have four crystal vases from our wedding.  Maybe we can plant fall annuals and clean up our yard?  He eyed me steadily.  I knew he was thinking of all the work, the extreme heat.  These flowers would also die.  We finally agreed to walk to a local restaurant and afterwards, pick out something crystal for the home in my fave home decorating store.  It was simple and low key.  Perfect.

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That day, at work the phone had rung; three boys asked to get Dad on the line.  I had walked into the humid shop, fans whirring as I called to him, elbows deep in grease, adjusting a machine.  Can it wait?  Is it important?  He grumpily came in, sitting in the office with his parents and I.  HAPPY ANNIVERSARY!   the kids yelled from the speakerphone.  The hubs, sweaty and grumpy, had to smile.  I had assumed the boys were asking to play video games; catching us all off guard.  They cheerily got off the phone as we made preparations to close for the day.  A tear came to my eye at their sweet sentiment.  We both drove off in different directions en route home.

Upon my arrival, pizza boxes in hand, the boys came down our stairs.  They again yelled Happy Anniversary as they descended, my back to them. The flower vase and balloons were placed in my hands, again caught by surprise.  The hubs stood next to me and I oohed and aahed.  How sweet of him to coordinate this with our sons and as I quietly said this to him he shook his head, silently.  There were tears in his eyes.  He had not coordinated this with our boys; jaw slack.  They had done this all on their own.

The boys came to hug us; jostling one another.  We looked for roses but improvised and got these instead.  The youngest chimed in how they had a hard time choosing and bought the $7 bouquet.  He chose the balloons LOL.  As the realization hit me I turned to my older sons asking how they paid for this and offered to pay them back the money.  They refused.  The homemade card was handed to me.  It was then that I cried; hugging the hubs with flowers and card-in-hand.  But don’t you like it Mommy, the youngest asked?  Arms and bodies clumsily huddled together in love; gratitude.  There are no words.

I can recount, with crystal clear clarity, the times flowers have made their impression upon me.  It is the reason they captivate me.  My mother grew them, wild, alongside our childhood home with her green thumb.  She would rarely cut them and so I watched them grow outside my bedroom window.  Her favorite:  calla lilies, the white ones.  Her trimmed rose bushes, in all colors, would scent the air; my namesakes.  These are my favorites, the soft petals glistening with dew; deep burgundy, sunny yellow, vanilla white.  My wedding  bouquet was heavy, white with pink-tipped roses wrapped in white satin.  My mother-in-law had delivered, the vibrant fall colors of my bridesmaids’ burgundy floral arrangements, our table centerpiece.  To this day I thank her for those flowers on our wedding day.  In the blur of my nuptials it is these snapshots that my mind remembers; happy.  The weekend prior the florist made a sample of what was to come at my bridal shower.

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I have chosen the same color scheme of flowers in my pre-arranged burial plan, for my funeral.  Roses and carnations; the hubs’ favorite flower.  It was February 1995 when these flowers were given to me; to represent the two of us.  We had returned from a bed and breakfast to Pensacola, FL and I could not bring them home on my flight.   As I entered my hospital office, the following Monday, the strong scent of roses had filled the air.  My co-workers stood around my desk wondering the occasion as I sat in wonder that the flowers I had left behind, sat upon my desk.  This one, he’s a keeper.

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I see the bright May afternoon, the long lines, the crowds as we waited our turn.  The four of us, roommates; posed in our fragrant leis at our college graduation.  The bff stands beside me; the one whose presence is always there.  In our 24 years of friendship we have stood next to each other at our weddings; both only children.  From, self, we have formed families, hers one larger than my own.  Whenever I see purple leis; even in Hawaii, I think of this moment.  The happiness; the fear.  What next?  Who would we become?

The dinner, the crystal home decor, the bottle of wine from the in-laws; all were wonderful.  All of them favorite things.  But the flowers, they travel with me from room-to-room and I began to notice the details in our home revealing what had transpired.

  • The chair pressed to our kitchen cabinets to reach my favorite purple vase with hand-painted flowers.
  • The cut flower food packet that one of the boys had poured, into the water, to make them last.
  • My computer terminal left on by the son who created the card; looking through my folders of pictures to choose ones of the two of us.
  • The pens left out as the boys each signed their names in different colored pens; just as I make them sign 200+ Christmas cards or thank you notes.

Just that afternoon I was relieved to receive the call that my sons made it home in 103 degree heat.  They had quickly made work of their homework assignments, grabbed their wallets and walked to our local grocery store, together, to create this gift.  It was simple, what they chose to do.  But, truly, it was huge.  A first.  I hope not the last.

But it is the first time that will etch its significance on my heart.  It was unexpected and I fear that now I will come to expect it and that is not fair.  I want to make this gesture last forever; the tears still coursing down my cheeks.  Our anniversary was poignant; not for our union, but the affirmation that we created these offspring.  The behavior they exhibited is learned from observing the hubs and I; he with the flowers, I with the cards.  And this.  This is the greatest gift we, as parents, can receive.  A gift unexpected, freely given.  With love.

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