I bought Mom flowers the other day. There’s a KaBloom kiosk just inside the train station. It’s been there for most of the summer, but I don’t really know how long because I’ve only occasionally glanced at it when I walk past.
Two weeks ago, I stalled in my journey to the train to sneak a peek at the flowers. Just inside were tall, clear glass vases on the lower steps of the round display, showing off the long, thick green stems of lilies, and the long, narrow shadows of the leaves they’d put in as decoration. They were just visible through the glare and the profiles of people walking around.
Maybe I should get Mom a bouquet, I thought as I kept walking.
The next week, I told Boyfriend about the kiosk. It was in the middle of a story about how Big H now works at Lowe’s and every morning for most of the summer, she’s brought home potted plants at a discount.
“They’re marked down because they’ve fallen over or because the pots are broken or something. Plus, she gets a discount because she works there. So now that she’s been bringing home flowers, and now that there’s this flower stand at the station, I’ve wanted to bring some home, too.”
Boyfriend smiled at me. “Why haven’t you?”
“Well, that’s the thing. I walk past it going, “I should get Mom flowers,” and then I keep walking.” Rolling my eyes, I shook my head at my own foibles. (Knowing what they are helps me with my self-deprecating humor.) “I swear, the day I decide to finally buy her flowers, the kiosk will be gone.”
Another two weeks went by without my looking even remotely at the kiosk. Life at work had gotten tense. People didn’t respond when they should’ve and it was holding us up. Internally, we were also being backlogged.
All this meant end of the month deadlines weren’t being met on time. I spent my walks to and from work glaring at the ground, thinking of furious orchestrals and grinding my teeth. Everything was setting me off. If I could’ve, I might’ve flung the slow-moving tourists who cut in front of me into the dirty harbor we all crossed to go home.
“What’s that look for?” Mom would ask when I got home, a semi-permanent angry-old-lady glare on my face. Even the dogs hid.
“People,” I said with poisoned vehemence. “They’re not getting stuff in on time and they keep apologizing, but when you don’t send your work in with your apology, the apology means nothing.“
I shoveled my dinner into my mouth, barely tasting my food, and spoke between bites. “Today, I’m flying down the road and some guy pulls his car into the street. Now, it was clear he wasn’t going to make that left in time to beat both me and the car coming the other way.
“So what does he do? He just sits there. In the middle of the road. So I have to slam on my brakes until I can feel the things clunking and the first words out of my mouth are Jesus fucking Christ! And then, after a full two seconds of more not moving, I can see him saying, “Okay! Okay!” until he finally reverses back out of the street.”
“You sound like Dad,” Little H said, laughing at me.
“Well, he shouldn’t have just been sitting there! He should’ve either gone all the way or backed out when he saw me coming. I mean, I’m going forty miles an hour. How stupid can you be?”
That made up the rest of the week. Once the weekend got around, and I got a chance to unwind with Boyfriend and my family, I felt a bit better.
The following work week turned out to be nicer than I’d expected. Time went quick. Things were getting done and I’d made final decisions about my projects that I’d been waiting all month to announce. It felt good.
Walking home, I turned my face to the sky and reminded myself that whatever happened in the office could stay there. Once I left, none of it was in my hands.
I remembered the kiosk again on my way to the train. This time, instead of flying right past, I slowed down. Before I was even conscious of my decision, I’d walked over.
Roses burst from their clear plastic bundles. Medleys stood like tropical birds at the very front. Summer blooms with bold, audacious, opposite colors paired together separated the romantics and tropicals from the delicate buds in water-filled fish bowls, spaced in even rows on their low shelf. The sedate, minimalist lilies I’d seen had their own side of the display altogether.
Roses were my go-to, but as soon as I saw them, I wanted something different. Mom could have roses anytime. The flower medleys were nice, but some of the petals looked wilted and I wasn’t sure what combination she’d like best.
In the display of summer blooms were bouquets of sunflowers. I remembered Mom telling us at the beginning of the season that she’d wanted to plant a few of her own outside the garden. We just hadn’t had time to do so.
Picking the most stable-looking bundle, I bought the bunch and walked to the train. The whole journey after that felt surreal. I couldn’t believe what I’d done, but I guarded the flowers from the curious stares that I chalked up to people not seeing so much color in a crowd of tired business suits.
Flowers, it seemed, were alien.
All of a sudden, I got the idea to give the bundle away. To buy a bouquet and hand out each flower to the people passing me by. Not for any real reason, but because it’s so unexpected and people seem to appreciate things more when they’re not expecting them. Almost like they’re thinking, “Wait, you can see me? You want to do something nice — for me?”
And flowers are such a happy gift. They almost own smiles.
I didn’t hand out the flowers to anyone except my mother. She was just as surprised as the passers-by would’ve been if I’d just given them out.
I do like the image of the Flower Girl, though.
What kinds of unexpected gifts have you given people?