As I walk into my elderly mother’s retirement community apartment building, I always look to the left for the flower arrangement. The genteel foyer opens slightly with a curve in the hallway, in which there is a polished circular cherry wood table. Except for December, when there is an artificial evergreen tree covered with white and gold needlepoint Christian religious symbols, there is always a lace doily and a flower arrangement of some kind displayed.
When my parents first moved to this building I was entranced by this- the Japanese feeling of celebrating the season in an alcove, for all to enjoy. I wondered about the committee of ladies who I imagined met and maintained this tradition.
I began to notice that- aside from the Christmas tree and an annual July driftwood and shell scene- there were two kinds of arrangements. There would either be a fairly grand vase or basket of live, cut flowers, or else there would be a smallish vase or basket of silks.
And I learned from my mother that it is not a committee but a single Dottie Luddle who takes charge, forming the silk arrangements from a cache of containers and polyester and plastic floral offerings kept in a cupboard in the laundry room. Away from dust. And she feels underappreciated. And she posts somewhat querulous notes on the cupboard doors complaining when something goes missing or askew.
And I learned that the real cut flowers are not welcome. For of course they require maintenance. You have to be vigilant to withdraw the fading, wilting stems and you have to decide when the whole shebang has got to go.
And of course, I came to realize, they are funeral flowers.
Today there was a big, cut arrangement. And indeed, while the pale roses were taut and the mums alert, the delicate delphiniums were turning down instead of reaching up on their fine stalks. And the glorious, showy white lilies were shrinking and turning an indeterminate color.
I wonder what I will do when I am that flower lady.