After going out for a vaguely-defined afternoon errand, Tony came home and surprised me with this:
It was the Tunisian florist’s version of a dozen red roses. I think it turned out beautifully. And it smells divine. The funny thing is, when I last saw the vase in the morning, it did have a dozen red roses in it. The roses he bought me, oh, about three weeks ago. Needless to say, they were no longer looking quite their best. In fact, certain parts of them were in a rather advanced state of decay. I can’t help it, though. I just can’t bear to throw flowers away, even when they have gracefully faded, or turned into a malodorous mass of moldy algae.
My first semester at college, I had a roommate named Randy. She had come to B.Y.U. at seventeen, already engaged. She spent a fortune on the phone (yes, this was before college students had cell phones) having long, tearful conversations with her fiancé in Kentucky. And when he sent her, yes, a dozen red roses for her birthday, they stayed on her bookshelf for months, moldering away into black oblivion. Finally, all the petals had fallen off, and only the stems remained, decaying in the reeking water of the half-filled vase. She got married a semester early at Christmas break, but she never did throw away those roses. They sat on the shelf after everything else was gone, like a macabre symbol of sentimental passion gone terribly, morbidly wrong.
At the time, I happily joined with my other roommates in disposing of the hideous mess as soon as there was no longer any danger of Randy catching us in the act. Nobody had ever bought me roses before, and I just didn’t understand. In fact, I don’t think I understood poor misunderstood Randy until a few weeks after I met Tony, when he brought me flowers at work. I couldn’t take my eyes off of them, or my nose out of them.
I’d like to say that I love to receive gifts that are original or socially responsible, like preserved insects or donations to my favorite charity. But I like flowers. Roses, especially. My idea of romance is the hopelessly stereotypical dozen red roses. Or any multiple thereof.
For the absolute ultimate in cliché, at my Christmas wedding I not only chose the colors red and green, but decided I wanted the darkest red roses possible. They turned out to be black roses. Did you know there was such a thing as a black rose? They are a deep, dark, sultry red, almost turning black around the edges. No, they’re not easy to find, especially in December. Mine flew in from a rose farm in Israel on December 26th. Of course, in the Christmas rush Fed-Ex lost the box. We had to drive to the regional warehouse on the day after Christmas (and the day before our wedding) to retrieve them. I think my mom still gets emails from the rose farmers. They always start out, “Shalom, Betty . . .”
I was afraid that Tony would stop getting me flowers after we got married. But sure enough, on the evening before Valentine’s Day, after we had been married for a month and a half, we were walking out of the grocery store in Provo together, and he saw the heavily-advertised roses in the doorway. He turned to me nonchalantly and asked, “what color would you like?” I burst into tears, and we drove home without any roses.
I must admit that he redeemed himself the next day, both in the form of flowers and otherwise. He later confessed that he hadn’t actually forgotten Valentine’s Day. As the new husband of a hopeless romantic, he was just stressed out about doing it perfectly. Since then, he has bought me flowers on countless occasions. My ultimate rose heaven was in La Jolla, where he bought me roses every week for months on end, hanging all the old ones up upside down on our balcony, in what he called “Sarah’s rose garden.”
In case you haven’t guessed it by now, I’m in love! And tonight is date night, too. Sorry if all these hearts and flowers are over the top for you, and you’ve just consigned my blog to the trash heap of sappiness. But if, like me, you just can’t get enough of the really mushy stuff, you can read more of it in Romantic Interludes I and II.
Edit: as requested, here is a picture from my black-rose wedding:
When you’ve had your fill of the flowers, take a look at the people. If you know my parents and in-laws, you may find this photo as amusing as I do. It captures brilliantly the attitude of each member of the wedding party.