Monday, October 6, 2008


Lest you think the only thing I love is food, I thought I would share with you that I also love flowers. I will not downplay my passion for food and cooking and wine and dining, but I need you to know that those loves are balanced with others, and I hope eventually to write about them all. Today I turn my attention to flowers.

Whenever possible, I have at least one vase of fresh flowers in my house. Sometimes they are from my mother's garden, sometimes they are from the supermarket. That is, they are always beautiful, and they are never expensive. From my mother's garden and around her house my favorites are lilacs and peonies and hydrangea; from the supermarket, alstromeria.

Obviously my mother, with her green thumb, deserves some credit for my flower habit. (Need I mention that my love for cooking and food comes also from her? Clearly, I am my mother's daughter.) Just as I cannot walk away from her house without a sack of fresh produce during summer time, or a recycled margarine tub full of cold slaw or sauerkraut or pierogi, when flowers are in bloom in her yard, she will follow me outside with kitchen shears to send me home with flowers.

Yet I have loved flowers longer than I have had a place of my own in which to showcase them. When I was a young girl, my grandmother (my father's mother) used to call my sisters and me over to her house, just two houses away, early on the morning of our last day of school to give us roses from her bushes for our teachers. In bloom in June, we would each bring a bunch of roses, whose stems were wrapped in wet paper towels and covered with aluminum foil, to our teachers as a thank you gift. All the way to school I would breathe in their beautiful scent. I can trace, therefore, my love of flowers to my youth, to my mother and grandmother. My desire to surround myself with them I attribute to an unlikely friend.

When I was in college, the mother of my heart's desire, an unrequited high school love, sent me a poem. She was going through a divorce and in a letter she shared a poem, one she probably read daily. The author and origin are disputed. The poem was Comes The Dawn; the line that stayed with me is "so plant your own garden and decorate your own soul, instead of waiting for someone to buy you flowers." Any C student would assume from the poem that she was sharing the story of her divorce, the journey of her heartbreak and healing. But somehow, maybe because I was in love with her son who she knew didn't return the favor, maybe because I was a freshman at an all women's college, when I read the poem, she unwittingly implored me to Be a woman who doesn't wait for a man to learn her worth, who doesn't need a man to feel worthy. Years later, when I had a place of my own, I kept the line about flowers alive by filling vases with flowers.

I still do.

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