Lilies standing almost five feet tall, boasting the most incredible raspberry shade, are visible from my kitchen table. They began growing in this border flowerbed, about five years ago. At first it was a lone stalk that I don’t remember planting. Now it has the company of about four others. Each stalk makes about six or seven flowers, and each of these blooms, approximately seven inches across, is long-lived. Every afternoon, during the flowering season, as we sit there at the table drinking our coffee, I get to admire these wonders. Although I have many different lilies in the yard, these raspberry aliens are surely the most beautiful. Perhaps I think that about each of the varieties as they appear. You see, they take turns coloring my yard.
It occurred to me how much joy flowers bring to our lives. Not just these lilies but all flowers of different shapes, sizes and in an array of colors that can only have been conceived by a superior being. Some with a scent so strong, one small bloom can fill the house. Think Hyacinths. Others so subtle that you must bury your nose in their center to catch a whiff. Be careful of the bumble bee.
I have a dear friend who works diligently on her lovely back yard. She digs deep into the rich soil, on her hands and knees, planting perennials (flowers that come back every year). She also puts in sweet, delicate, pale, starbursts, and decidedly, garish, in your face, annuals. They are all thrilling. The frequent visits to she and her husband’s home are always fun events. The couple needs no enhancement, aside from their company to entice you back, yet I have to admit her artistic touch, and care to the arrangement of the gardens, add a great deal to one’s pleasure and comfort.
I remember growing up in Manhattan. Living in a sea of concrete and asphalt. The only flowers you came across were those an occasional homemaker would have in a pot on her fire escape. The lone tree on our block was puny, but guarded jealously by the people who lived on the first floor. God help a kid that would think of climbing it.
My grandfather, Louis, on my father’s side lived until I was about five or six years of age. His wife, my paternal grandmother, Maria, died in her early forties from a broken heart after one of her sons was killed in an accident. He fell from a fire escape while rough housing with a friend. Louis was left to raise his other four sons. There was no woman in his life until my father brought home his girlfriend, my mother, Rosalie. Four years after my mother and father were married they brought me home :).
Needless to say the sun rose and set on this little girl. Only having had men in his life for so many years, Louis did the only thing he knew to do with a little girl. He bought me flowers! Huge bouquets of flowers. I still recall his taking me by the hand, walking me up to a push cart on 106th Street and Lexington Avenue; filling my arms with flowers. My mother would laugh so hard when I brought them home. There were so many that they over flowed several vases in the apartment. Thus began my love affair with flowers.
After my grandfather passed away I don’t remember having real flowers in our apartment. Later when it was just my mother, grandmother, sister and I, there really wasn’t extra money for fresh flowers. However, my grandmother always loved pretty things and every so often she would buy plastic flowers (no silk in those days) to sit on a dresser in her bedroom. Plastic lasts a long time before they fade and need to be replaced. Once in a while grandma bought pussy willows to herald in Spring time.
I imagine as a child, and then teen, I didn’t miss having flowers in my life. Flowers that rural and suburban people kind of take for granted. There influence is an intangible. Flowers that grow wild on the sides of the highway, but not up through concrete. I guess I didn’t notice the lack of color on a summer day. Young people have other things on their mind and perhaps its fortunate to not notice what you don’t have around you.
But now I am one lucky girl. I am surrounded by the beauty of my flowers and the luxurious beauty of the blooms at my friends’ and children’s houses. I never refuse a gift of flowers, whether they are purchased from a florist, 7-11, supermarket, or side of the road. Whether they are plucked from a vacant lot, or its a dandelion offered from a child’s hand. They always make my day. Remember to make someone’s day!