The radio played some sad country-and-western tune in the shadow of a pine tree, and the Flower Lady leaned against an old Ford and told a few love stories of her own.
The things you see here on a grassycorner along Jumpers Hole Road could sometimes break your heart, sometimes make you smile.
The Flower Lady won't give her name, but she'll talk enough, tellyou about the young men who come by to buy flowers and tell their troubles. The 60-year-old Arkansas native has lived in several states and several nations, and for four years watched life from behind a folding table in Pasadena.
"I have a lot of lovers that come by, theybuy a single rose for their sweetheart. . . . Some men say to me, 'You don't know how hard it is to be a man. Women are so changeable.'
"One man came by, he was so upset. He said, 'I do everything, everything for my girl. . . .' "
He showed her the engagement ring he'dbought for his woman, said he'd about kill himself if she didn't accept it. Well, she did, then she didn't. Then he came back for more flowers. And more flowers.
"The last time he came he was so angry. He said, 'I want to buy flowers one more time for her. I don't know what to do with her.' "
That was about seven months or so ago. She hasn't seen him since. Happy ending? Maybe. She's seen that, too. The Flower Lady says she can usually tell when the wooing ends and the wedding is accomplished. She loses more customers that way.
"They buy flowers until they get married, then it stops. And women don't likethat."
Some married women drop hints by buying their own flowers for themselves. Some sulk.
The latter was the case of the public school psychologist's wife. He came by one day and told the Flower Lady, "I'm going to tell you my troubles because I can't tell them to anyone else."
The wife was in a funk, he said, spending a lot of time stretched out on the couch watching television. She needed something, he figured. The Flower Lady had a simple prescription.
"He bought her flowers," she said. "That seemed to help. Flowers are a positive thing. That's why I think if you sell flowers you can't really gowrong with the public."
The Flower Lady's been selling flowers byone roadside or another since she lived in Holland in 1973. She's sold beside a two-lane road in Tarrytown, N.Y., where once a man pulledup and bought out her entire stock in one shot.
She's been dispensing wisdom and roses on this spot in Pasadena for four years. Four days a week, sometimes more, she drives down from Baltimore, pulls thecar over onto the grass in the morning or early afternoon, sets up her table, her two umbrellas, her radio, her roses and carnations. Andshe waits.
"Hey how much for the roses?"
This shouted by a manin the passenger side of a pickup truck that pulled over yesterday afternoon. He did not get out of the truck. Bad sign, said the Flower Lady.
"If they don't get out of the car they're not going to buy,"she said, after the truck drove off
This is just one of the things she's learned from years on the roadside and on the road.
"I have been in every state" except Alaska and Hawaii, she said. "I feel like every place is my home."
ONE MOTHER'S WISH: OBITUARY FOR INFANT
You come across some pretty interesting things working for a newspaper. Especially when it's your job to do obituaries.
Most of the time, local funeral homes fax the information over to our paper. Sometimes a relative will call when the funeral home has no fax machine or doesn't send the information here.
The other day I received a callfrom one such distraught relative. A mother.
The mother wanted toknow why an obituary about her 3-month-old baby hadn't appeared in the paper. The child had been buried on April 1, and it was already April 10.
I asked her which funeral home she dealt with, thinking I could save her some pain by contacting the home myself. I assured herthat I would clear things up with them. Perhaps the fax just got lost or misplaced.
The catch came when I called the funeral home and was told this was a welfare funeral.
"The state limits us to only $650 for these funerals, and we put more into it than that, although we only bill the state for $650. We explained to the mother that because we could only spend $650, services would be cut to a bare minimum. We cut out the time and paperwork involved with a death notice or an obituary. They're extra."
Fortunately, that mother did call backand her obituary ran. We do them for free.