By Tom Poland
Outside the artful placing of lilies, camellias, daffodils, and azaleas in vases, I never tried floral arranging. Thought about it but Clint Eastwood said, “A man’s got to know his limits.” As close as I got to professional flower arranging was a college job at Carolyn’s Flowers in Athens, Georgia. I watched floral artists perform their magic using gladiolas, various blooms, baby’s breath, thin green wire, and green foam called Oasis. Wire and Oasis let flowers defy gravity. They used soft green tape too. You had to look hard to see it, green as a blade of grass and supple.
I drove a white van for Carolyn and delivered gravity-defying magic as birthday bouquets and Valentine’s Day bud vases. Coca Cola crates held bud vases in that old van and not once did a vase topple. (When’s the last time you saw a wooden Coke crate?) As I ferried flowers around the Classic City, I often thought about Mom. She loved flowers and more than once expressed her desire to open a flower shop. She never did.
Nonetheless flowers surrounded me growing up. Mom grew lilies, gardenias, daffodils, azaleas, roses, and camellias and these made their way into our home as beautiful arrangements. Mom had a gift for flower arranging, and how I wish she had run her own flower shop. It would have been good for her, but she never did because of a rough time she went through as a young mother. A physician of the mind told her to never work again, that she couldn’t handle the stress. At the age of three I spent four months in the hospital and it was just too much for her. She never held a job again, though being a homemaker meant work. Lots of work. And then the years piled up and Mom was no more.
When my sisters and I began going through her possessions we came across her vases. I brought some home and spring through summer I put daffodils, lilies, azaleas, and gardenias in Mom’s deep blue vases, so blue they’re almost black. Let sunlight strike them though and the blue flames up like indigo afire.
On my Southern sojourns I see abandonment. When I saw this old shop my mind went back to my Georgia home. I knew this shop had long sent forth happiness as blooms and blossoms for weddings, birthdays, and anniversaries. Funeral arrangements delivered a different sentiment. “So long, loved one.”
Though death claimed this old flower shop a long time ago, the moment I saw it I knew I’d write about Mom’s longing to own a flower shop. In my mind and heart this place was hers.
Ruth’s Flower Shop is no more, but I’m certain older members of the Trenton, South Carolina community recall its lovely creations just as I recall my mother’s arrangements. They brought beauty and sweetness to my childhood.
How I wish I had known this shop existed. I would have taken Mom to see it in its glory days. This shop night have moved her to action despite that physician’s bad advice. A little push might have helped. Mom might have realized her dream after all and what a difference that could have made. You see, her name was Ruth, and sometimes seeing is believing. It might have moved her to act on her dream.
Tom’s work appears in publications throughout the South. His books include South Carolina Country Roads, Classic Carolina Road Trips From Columbia, Georgialina, A Southland, As We Knew It, and Reflections of South Carolina, Vol. II. He writes about the South, its people, traditions, lifestyle, and culture. He’s member of the SC Humanities Speaker’s Bureau. Governor Henry McMaster conferred the Order of the Palmetto upon Tom for his body of work on South Carolina. Tom grew up in Lincoln County, Georgia, and graduated from the University of Georgia. He lives in Irmo, South Carolina.