Friday, February 15, 2013

Flower Day

         Like men everywhere who make a beeline one day a year, generally at the last minute, to give their business to a retail opportunity generally ignored with great success the rest of the year, I made a stop at a florist yesterday.
            I was reminded of the day's significance at the hospital that morning, where I went for my monthly treatment and discovered that people were handing candy to one another in a sort of reverse trick-or-treating: the candy comes to you, you don't have to go out and beg for it.
            Candy is dandy on Feb. 14, but for most of us it's "say it with flowers."
            Most American household do not ordinarily have fresh flowers in the house in February; or, possibly, any other time. It's interesting, then, that almost without exception everyone knows the drill on the February folk holiday. The expression you use to warm the heart of that someone special on this one universally recognized occasion is the gift of blooming plant life.
            That notion of "someone special" came to me this morning also by way of that hospital visit from the person who was about to draw my blood. The phlebotomist decided that the act of accepting one of those "bite-size" candy bars from a smiling but silent man about half her size deserved some comment.
            "Happy Valentine's Day," she observed, smiling warmly as a gesture of characteristic benevolence. Youthful, though not necessarily young, the phlebotomist had one of those "big" personalities that seems naturally to connect with everyone she encountered.
            "Oh yeah," I replied. "I'd already forgotten."
            What I meant was I had thought about the approach of Valentine's Day the day before, and the day before that, and vowed to do something about it. But now here it was, the single day each year when you could be absolutely sure the florist would be crammed, and so far I had done absolutely nothing.
            "Sorry," she teased. Her demeanor showed she was not sorry. "I guess you have to do something now."
            She followed this teasing observation with the implied question, "...if you have someone special."
            There must be something special about a nearly universal custom that pleasures us or it doesn't persist. Yet how do you know if you're obliged to take part? Are you supposed to give flowers today to -- your spouse? your sweetheart? your lover? The friend of your heart? All of the above?... Someone more deeply connected to your own heart, it seems, than the connection suggested by the word "friend." 
            So the phrase "someone special" does the trick.
            I replied to her implicit question that I have been married to someone for "a good many years," one of my new favorite circumlocutions.
            "But she's still special," concluded the health care who was about to take my blood.
            [Could that substance be analyzed, I wondered, to determine qualities such as truthfulness?]
            [Yes, the technician said, looking up from a computer readout, you have been married a long time.]
            "Yes, she is," I said, agreeing with my care worker's assertion.
            She punctuates our happly little dialogue by sticking a needle in my arm.
            I bleed. In fact, I bleed flowers.
            The only reason I don't buy flowers at some ridiculous rate during the cold, dormant time of year is that I do buy them at a ridiculous rate during the warm, growing season, under the impression that I will able to keep them growing.
            If you live in the northern hemisphere and find yourself (once again) enduring a predictable but largely unpleasant period of time called February -- the longest shortest month of the year -- a custom that encourages you to acquire growing, flowering, colorful hunks of glorious nature is likely to have some momentum behind it.
            We all have someone special. (Or someones; children, parents?)
            If no one is currently occupying that role for you, buy some flowers for yourself.