I’ve been searching out flowers. Thinking about luck and aging and history…
My father was a florist in Waterbury, Connecticut, where I grew up in the 1950s. Most early mornings he headed to the wholesale market. Schmoozing while selecting fresh flowers that had arrived overnight from Hawaii or some distant sunny place.
I had no way of knowing that 60 years later I would be living in the sunny Sonoran desert around 50 miles from the Mexican border.
As a kid my job at my father’s store, Cherry Hill Gardens, was to unwrap the protective newspaper around hundreds of poinsettias, hydrangeas, or tulips, depending on which holiday a shipment honored. The plants were unloaded in a dank gray garage, formerly a livery stable at the end of the driveway.
An elderly black man, whom my brother and I called Ike the Pike, helped out during busy times. I liked him. He was funny.
Later I learned that Ike drank a lot, which I may not have understood back then.
My mother didn’t want me to be alone with Ike.
I always asked her, “Why not?”
She replied, “Because I said so.”
My mother, a Russian immigrant, was always afraid. In the early 20th century she arrived as a toddler with her mother and brother at Ellis Island.
That was more than 100 years ago. It must have taken tremendous courage and perseverance for my grandparents to leave Russia in search of a better life. They were lucky. My grandfather arrived first, followed a few years later by his family.
I don’t get it. We’re all descendants of immigrants. Luckily, a majority of Americans support refugee resettlement. (Here’s a long but illuminating conservative take on our current political mess, including the immigration battle).
I remember, as a kid, not getting the big deal about having plants for holiday celebrations.
Dazzling prickly pear blooms amaze me year after year. Lilacs swaying on branches behind my Maine house, their fragrance wafting through the air, intoxicate me. Now I get the necessity of plants and flowers. It’s about the passing of time. And still being here…and being lucky.
*In memory of Julie Russell and her magnificent smile, her unwavering kindness to all, and her sweet backyard garden.