She doesn't buy flowers

vendors just scatter the petals at her feet

March 23, 2003|By Susan Reimer

THE PHILADELPHIA Flower Show is the granddaddy of all flower shows. Big, old, prestigious. And an enormous, magical spectacle.

It is as if God moved the Garden of Eden into the Philadelphia Convention Center for a week every winter, just when His poor creations are losing hope that spring will ever come.

Those of us who like to think of ourselves as gardeners can leave the Philadelphia Flower Show feeling pretty discouraged, like we ought to plow under our flower beds and pave the backyard.

Thank God for the shopping.

It came as a complete shock to my husband that there was shopping at a flower show.

When my sister-in-law, Jill, called for me, he explained that I was in Philadelphia at a flower show, and she asked if he was worried about what kind of tab I would run up.

"It's a flower show. There's no shopping at flower shows," he said, dismissing her concerns in the same tone of voice that Tom Hanks used in A League of Their Own.

Poor, foolish man.

There are more flowers than there is shopping at the Philadelphia Flower Show. The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society likes to keep it that way to protect the integrity of the competition.

But there is shopping, let me assure you. Plenty of shopping.

I have a reputation among my friends of which I am secretly proud. They say I could shop in the rubble left after a nuclear accident and find bargains. I try to be humble, but I am good.

So, any attempt by the Philadelphia Flower Show people to hold back on the commercialization of their venerable event is of little consequence to me. I relish such a challenge.

I called my friend Connie and told her to meet me in Philadelphia. I was taking the gloves off, and I wanted a witness. Someone to tell my grandchildren about the time when Grandma found plenty to buy in a cavernous hall filled with 30 dump trucks full of dirt, mulch and sod.

I can't speak for every woman, but I have always wanted to hail a taxi from a windy street corner with shopping bags piled at my feet like cordwood at Joan of Arc's execution.

By the time Connie and I finished shopping the flower show, we were a spectacle the equal of anything we had seen.

We stumbled out of the Convention Center with grateful vendors applauding in our wake. One even sent a young man along to help carry our bundles.

We hailed a taxi with all the flair of Sarah Jessica Parker in a scene from Sex and the City, even if those weren't Manolo Blahnik stilettos or vintage frocks in our bags. No one need know we had only tin garden ornaments and pressed flower coasters.

A delightful cab driver responded to our chirpy hail and only too late realized that he might have to call for back-up.

We tumbled into the back seat while he packed the trunk and then gave him the name of our hotel. Connie turned to me with a new look of ferocity in her eyes.

"If we'd parked closer, I'd go back," she said, and I knew I had a convert.

Upon my return home, I asked my husband to help unload the van, and I am sure he thought I meant my suitcase.

Poor, foolish man.

After he'd finished, I made him sit still while I paraded my purchases with the trilling enthusiasm of Doris Day.

He was not enthusiastic, but a prophet is never appreciated in her own land.

When I showed him the arrangement of dried flowers for the dining room table, he pointed out that there was already one there.

When I showed him the rooster sculpted out of wire, he said, "Well, if we need one."

I showed him the butterfly house and the cast iron hanging planter and the filigreed plant stand and the tin dragonfly and the lavender sachets and the framed pressed flowers and the hand-painted flower jars.

But I lost him when I showed him the hand-made cedar barrel for storing bird seed.

"Where are the flowers?" he asked, exasperated. "Didn't you buy any flowers? I thought this was a flower show."

Silly man, I said. Why would I buy flowers at a flower show?

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