There#039;s power in growing flowers

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 20, 2003

I spent the weekend planting flowers for my daughter Mary's upcoming wedding in August. She is marrying a coworker, David Silverstein, whom she met where she lives in Los Angeles. I had promised her I would try and grow the flowers for her wedding. I planted gladiolus, calla lilies, dahlias and lots of annuals. Mary is like many young women that get married nowadays in that she is having five bridesmaids, a traditional white gown and a buffet style wedding dinner. The other day a woman asked me what has happened to the days when people had sandwiches, mints, nuts and cake at a wedding?

She went on to say that weddings cost so much money, have so many attendants and last for hours. I agree. But Mary wants a big wedding and she and her fiance are footing the bill for most of the ceremony.

When I was married ages ago, I paid for my wedding too. I was married in Ireland. I wore a simple cotton dress with great big green flowers that looked like curtains. It was pretty ugly. Tom wore a brand new suit. He is only 5 feet tall and weighs less than 100 pounds. He bought the suit at an exclusive boys shop in Dublin off Grafton Street. It was a three-piece tan suit with bellbottom pants.

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We were planning on starting a restaurant and Tom said that when he wore the suit he got respect from the Realtor agents he was looking to rent space from. I really didn't believe we would be able to start a restaurant, so I didn't dare spend any money. We were living with another couple at the time and eating lentils and brown rice for every other meal. It was a big deal when we could buy eggs or a candy bar. I was hungry all the time. I was pretty angry with Tom for buying a new suit when I was dreaming about eating a good meal every day. I was working as a cleaning lady and kitchen helper for the Little Sisters of the Poor. I worked from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. five days a week and saved my bus fare by walking three miles home every night.

This contributed to my ire with his purchasing the suit. I was worried about every 10 pence we spent and he was walking around looking like he had money.

The night before our wedding, Noeleen, the woman we lived with and my bridesmaid, told me she would take care of the flowers for the wedding.

She had taken a course the previous winter on how to arrange flowers Japanese style. I said, "I don't have any money for flowers as I spent it on the wedding cake ingredients."

I had baked a "cake" with corn meal because Tom liked corn breadmuffins. I know it doesn't make a lot of sense, but I knew how to make corn bread and I didn't know how to make cake, so our wedding cake was corn bread. I had forgotten to buy baking powder so the corn bread was flat. I cut the cornbread in layers and put whipped cream and strawberries between the layers.

Anyway, Noeleen told me not to worry about the flowers. She was going to make the most beautiful bouquet for me. I went to bed and when I woke up, I found in the refrigerator a beautiful wedding bouquet with roses and peonies and a carnation boutonniere for Tom. I went and thanked Noeleen and asked her where she had gotten such beautiful flowers.

"All the ladies in the neighborhood have such beautiful flower gardens. I went out after midnight and clipped a few flowers from each yard. I was careful and didn't take their best ones. These flowers won't be missed," Noeleen explained.

I'll be thinking of my pilfered wedding flowers while I watch Mary's wedding flowers grow this summer -- only Mary will have the best ones in her bouquet.

Sheila Donnelly can be reached at 434-2233 or by e-mail at