It was, as you recall, Valentine’s Day this week and let me tell you, in this house it was all about the lovin'. Spencer brought me his candy he received at the school party, letting me have first pick of the goods (though it was a pretty safe, he knows I like the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and he doesn’t). David brought me a pen that he’d topped with a silk rose and wrapped in floral tape so that the pen looked like the stem of the flower. He’d decorated a little clay flowerpot and filled it with rocks that could be used to anchor the pen in an upright position, the whole arrangement designed to look like a flower in a pot. Remarkably cute and useful—after three children and 18 major holidays at Northern Lights Elementary I have quite a collection of clay pots—it’s got a place of honor at my computer desk.
Then came the Big Surprise. Andrew had arranged to come home for a quiet lunch together but when he walked through the door he carried a beautiful vase of orchids and a long, strange story. A couple weeks before Valentine’s Day he’d received at the office a catalogue from a fancy florist (that’s a side-benefit of buying things from Tiffany’s you get placed on the coolest mailing lists). Even after fourteen years Andrew is still a little unsure of his ability to buy gifts for me that are to my taste and he’d brought the catalogue home slyly and nonchalantly to see which flower arrangements I liked best. After looking through it together (and I felt mighty silly showing him which ones I liked best as if I was asking to be showered with gifts) he played cool and acted as if it wasn’t of much interest to him.
However, he took the picture of the bouquet I liked best—the light purplish-blue orchids in a matching vase—and immediately called up his favorite local florist, describing in detail the arrangement he wanted with such choice words as “periwinkle dendrobiums,” verbatim from the catalogue. I got a deep and satisfied chuckle thinking of the number of men in this town that could actually put the words “periwinkle” and “dendrobium” together and what the guys at the office would say if they’d over heard him.
He placed his order for pick up on Tuesday before lunch but when he arrived at the shop he found to his horror “one really ugly flower pot.” It wasn’t the color he’d requested—instead of periwinkle they’d given him purple and instead of a tall matching-color vase they’d put the flowers in a low, shallow banana-boat thing (of a color not periwinkle). He was not pleased and it must have been apparent from his look because the two women at the counter asked him with slight apprehension, “Sir, don’t you like it?”
Though feeling somewhat awkward about rejecting their botanical and aesthetic efforts, the panic of the situation overcame him and his last memory before blacking out was his adamant declaration that no, he did not like it and, with his voice rising toward hysteria, didn’t they have any periwinkle dendrobiums?
At that point the two women in the shop shifted into crisis-mode (Level Red according to the FTD warning system) collecting all the vases they could find in an effort to please the man who must be married to a woman more demanding and uptight than Imelda Marcos, Hilary Clinton, and Elizabeth Taylor rolled into one tidy package. They couldn’t come up with any purple vases or periwinkle dendrobiums, only dark purple dendrobiums and silver vases. In desperation and under pressure of time he finally picked out the vase he thought the least objectionable and the two women frantically put together a new arrangement with the darker flowers accompanied by a lot of “How do you like this sir?”’s.
The whole scene ended with him slipping into post-traumatic stress, sighing resignedly and buying a much-less-than-perfect arrangement that his wife couldn’t possibly like as much as the one in the magazine. In a word, he was sure he’d failed as a husband (wait, that’s eight words).
Of course none of this I knew when he presented me with the most beautiful bouquet I’d ever received and I hope my enthusiasm for the arrangement and then for him convinced him I thought he’d done good. He was sweet and thoughtful and the flowers were beautiful—but after I’d heard the whole story I felt sheepish, does he really think I’m that hard to please? Does he trust his own judgment so little? Will I ever get flowers again after that painful and rather nerve-wracking experience?
Who knows, but the only thing of which I am certain is that the name Mitton now carries a new and ominous significance among the florists of Anchorage. He may have to go with the catalogue if he ever wants flowers in this town again.
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