Friday, May 25, 2012

Three Rings and a Robe

'Tis the season.  The season for receptions and speeches, advice and tears, dreams and reminiscing. For well wishing, cakes, and platitudes.  For travels to distant cities, for ceremony, for tradition, for costumes strange and medieval, for pageantry.  For giant leaps, bows, and tossing apparel in the air.

For graduations?

For a circus!

Actually, I find it quite delicious that the Kid's Korner graduation here in Tarkio incorporates a circus into its graduation festivities.  Anyone who knows and loves a preschooler already knows how life with a 3,4, rising 5 year old cannot possibly be confined to three rings.  Each and every child there has, in turn, been a tiger, a clown, a magician, a stunt man, and a trick rider.  

In the audience sit moms and dads, a raucous assortment of little brothers and sisters, grandmas, grandpas, aunties, uncles, babysitters, and even, for the fortunate, a notable number of great grandmas and -pas.  This assembly is what sets our little town apart from the majority of preschool programs taking place this merry May: whether or not we know the names of the little ones dressed up on the stage, we know who they are. ( Those eyes; they are just like her momma's....I remember when she graduated from grade school. )  How many towns in our country 
gather four generations for a preschool program?   Not many, anymore.  What sets this place apart is how many names in our cemetery still exist in our schools; how many families have remained faithful to town, school, church and even political party lo these many years.  Its a blessing; its a curse, but its a characteristic, and a notable one, of our little town. Goodness knows, I am filled with regret each time a denizen of one of the grand old families passes on.  It is also cause for celebration when there are four year olds on the stage in their jaunty black "mortar boards" whose mommies and daddies have settled in the same little towns where their grandparents are buried  and the same old schools where their photos in the graduating classes of  whatever gradually fade to black and white.

We don't all come home again.  Far, far away on the tradition laden lawn of a historic campus, we will celebrate another graduation.  Despite the University of Virginia's school colors of orange and navy, the graduates of the School of Law will be wearing sober black when they receive their rolled diplomas.  There will be hoods and mortar boards, brunches and receptions, and general lauds for the class of 2012.  We dither about the correct interpretation of 'summer cocktail wear' for an afternoon reception in the Law School's courtyard garden and comfortably air conditioned halls.  There are gents in bow ties and boating shoes, ladies in broad brimmed beribboned hats.  I am gratified and justified when I spy seersucker even if it is not the rule, but the exception. Fruity frosty desserts await in cunning little square glass serving ware; we slip a couple into Ann's bag for Lizzie's preferred souvenir ('something breakable, Mommy, but not TOO breakable'). Perched on the granite wall, we enjoy the people watching; we even meet a professor or two before heading off to supper.  It seems only fitting that we warm up with tiny tidbits before the main event of ribs and fries at the Barbeque Exchange in Gordonsville.  Our version of summer cocktail wear looks more than a little too upscale for the clientele banging in and out the screen door and squinting in the westering May sunshine.

Little do we know that graduation at UVA is a circus unto itself.  We queue up for a city block for a bus ride to the hallowed and historic Rotunda.  Despite the august surroundings, a party atmosphere overrides the solemnity of the black gowns.  Thomas Jefferson appears to be floating on a sea of mylar balloons with shapes and characters of special significance to each graduate...or perhaps just easily recognized by loved ones in the mob lining the sidewalks.  Are we sending the next generation off into the real world, or are we watching a Chinese New Year's celebration or Thanksgiving day parade?  I expect to see Underdog float over the Rotunda.  

Our party of ten echoes the congregation at the Kid's Korner circus;  grandparents, wife, sisters, mom and dad, aunt and uncle arriving in three different flights and a Honda CRV.  When Ben's name is called, we raise enough clamor that the lady from North Carolina next to us asks us to cheer for her son when he walks across.  We double our efforts.

Circus to commencement; stunt man to J.D.  We are family; we will celebrate.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Over the Hump Day

Here we are again, on the cusp of another Mother's Day.  In the lexicon of those in the flower business, Mother's Day is a combination of both Christmas and New Year's Eve: Christmas in that one can either receive all one has wished for, or not, and New Year's Eve, because all must be accounted for, the good, the bad, the surprising, the disastrous, the serendipitous and the disappointing.  There is no silver bullet, no Fairy Godmother, and no miraculous recovery after Mother's Day.  Sports analogy time:  the bullpen may earn the save, but there is no chance you'll come back from a 12-zip deficit.  Its the home stretch; finishing is the goal.  You cannot start the game over.  There's no reset.

But there is another goal if you are part of a family business like we are.  On Mother's Day eve, we have been successful if we don't look at the clock Saturday afternoon, leap into our cars, and peel out of the driveway, down the gravel road leaving a cloud of dust and a sigh of relief behind us.  We are family, as the song goes, and we've lived in our work for months, leaving the scene in body, but carrying the anxiety home to bed, sharing our dreams with our aches and pains. During harvest, we work on a single task but dispersed over multiple vehicles and many square miles of field and highway.  In the greenhouse we are compressed into 2.5 acres of plastic, one dining room table and a single grimy office with three computers.  Beginning in March, we spend our hours, seven days a week, pushing from one task to another, all time sensitive, biological deadlines looming, with the added uncertainty of the weather outdoors influencing the environment indoors. Every miscue, whether sins of omission or commission, can have lasting effect on the final bottom line....after Mother's Day. is to return to a sense of proper proportion to wait on our customers Mother's day week.  Here is the couple gently lifting their frail mother onto one of our wheeled hand carts so she can ride through the colorful aisles she has been patronizing for nigh unto twenty years.  This lovely woman used to bring her less sturdy friends out to the greenhouse, several trips during the spring, choosing a couple of pots or so each visit.  Her daughter still plants a sampling of the same flowers her mother always chose; I see these flowers daily all summer long.
Here is another husband and wife, spending a good solid forty five minutes hunting down two geraniums of the perfect shade for the older woman in the car.  'When you are ninety three,' he tells me, ' you don't change your mind.'  Perhaps not, but the mother in the car tells me, 'I've planted red for years and years! I want pink ones for a change!!'  She is wearing a pink sweater shell with just a hint of a sparkle.  I have no problem detecting the spark that keeps her going. Little daughters and sons accompany moms, pushing the hand carts and offering opinions. Often mommy or daddy allows them to choose their own flowers and they handle the pots with all the concentration accorded great grandma's heirloom teapot.   Around 4 or so, the men arrive.  Typically, men purchase tomatoes and peppers, or cucumbers or squash.  But a lost male on Mother's Day eve wants a BIG plant, basket or tub.  They may not get past the first greenhouse they enter if some BIG plant is within reach.  Sorry, guys; I am not making this up.

The gang at Hurst Greenery disperses to their own homes, yards, gardens.  We go 'shopping', examining the flowers on the benches with a gardener's eye, not professional interest.  We still have sales to make; will this flat be a leftover?  Or will some paying customer ask for it the day after it is watered into my yard?  This is an easier decision if the flower in question is slightly flawed, or in an odd sized container.  Carrying coals to Newcastle, the pickups and golf carts groan with their colorful cargo. The moms of the family cherish other garden related goodies, gleaned from deliveries of the week: ceramic pots of exotic hue, quaint metal garden ornaments, pot stickers, trellises, solar lamps....

How can I express the gratitude I feel for these loved ones I see day after day.  For their tolerance, their support, their exertions, their good nature, their sheer persistence and sense of humor whatever the situation.  There is always pain, always disappointment.  Less certain is success or triumph.  We make do with the beauty of our produce, the occasional compliment, and the satisfaction of our team work.

Happy Mother's Day to all my lovely up!