The bell above the door jingled. They stepped over the threshold and into the shop.
“Get whatever you like,” Walter said cheerily. “I’m good for it.” He wanted to give her a special gift for her birthday, and he knew she loved flowers.
A smile lit up Hazel’s face. Her eyes sparkled as they flitted from flower to flower before resting momentarily on an apricot mum. This is it. So full and beautiful. Her hand reached out and her fingers gently grasped the stem as she gently pulled the chosen flower from the bucket. Continuing, appraising flower after flower, she considered the size, color, shape, and texture of each. The bouquet in her arms grew.
Shyly, she turned to Walter. He nodded. Years of marriage made words, at times, unnecessary.
Relief flooded over Hazel’s features. Then, turning back to the task at hand, she joyfully pulled flower after flower from their buckets and added them to her bouquet-mums, roses, fern, daisies. The bouquet was glorious. It’s perfect! It will set-off the vase perfectly. The vase was beloved because it reminded her of her wedded, far away daughter.
“Get a few more if you want,” Walter said as he looked over at her sunshiny smile.
“No. It’s perfect.”
Walter and Hazel stepped toward the counter and handed the bouquet over the counter to the middle-aged sales lady. She took the flowers and began to ring up each flower, chattering all the while. “That will be $42.83,” she announced finally.
Walter’s eyes grew as big as saucers, and his mouth dropped open. Hazel turned, eyes wide, and looked up at Walter. Without uttering a word, Walter opened his wallet again, pulled out two more twenty dollar bills. He handed it to the outstretched hand of the clerk.
“Here is your change: $7. 17,” she said as she handed it to Walter. Then, wrapping the blooms carefully in white butcher paper, she put them gingerly in a brown paper bag. “I know you’ll enjoy these for years! They are beautiful. Isn’t it wonderful how lifelike these flowers are? Nothing like the plastic ones we used to have,” she added, holding the bag across the counter.
Hazel reached out and grabbed the handles on the bag. “Thank you.” Then, he and Walter turned and walked out the door. Walter took the doorknob and pulled the door closed with a click. Jingle! The bell echoed after them.
Years afterwards, the vase stood prominently on the table in the foyer of my grandparents’ house. The flowers were as glorious and proud as they were on the day they were purchased. The story was told and retold so many times that it went down in the annals of family lore. Sadly, a few years ago, the handle broke off the vase; I haven’t had the heart to throw it away. (Happily, the vase came to live at my house when my grandparents passed away.) I still hear my Popa’s rich voice retelling the story and the merry laughter that always accompanied it. I still see the twinkle in my Popa’s eye as he speaks. I still feel love surrounding me like a warm shawl on a chilly evening every time I see…the vase.