While my fellow high schoolers labored at dishwashing, waitressing, and car washing, my first job was at a pleasant neighboring florist. I rode my one speed 10 year old bike to work after a half hour drive from school. In isolation, I planted minuscule seedlings haphazardly into tiny pots. The messy, meticulous work reminded me of the endless hours of hoeing corn, thinning lettuce, and dicing rhubarb and I cussed during the trivial task, after all I had a 4.0 GPA, a straight A student doing THIS.
Occasionally, I would carry cut red carnations or blazing purple petunias to the front of the store. I warmed to bright displays of vivid glassware, vases, and floral arrangements. My boss, an agronomist from State University took me under his wing, gently taunted me about my attendance at private Schools. When Bob learned that I was a Latin student, he taught me the botanic names of every flower and plant. When reviewing, my loud laughter echoed through the greenhouses.
The other workers snickered as I baptized the vegetation with Latin labels in lilting accents, in ballads, or to the tune of old hymns.
“Ilex aquifolium, aurea taxus,Calendula Officinalis, baccata pisifera.” I mumbled humbly to ivy and marigolds, approximate to the high school fight song. I combined childhood tunes and nursery rhymes with “Rubus coburnianus miscanthus sineis cotoneaster conspicuous”. It received a nice mixed gape among cactus, asters and confused customers. I loved an audience and I was strolling a path toward that of a stand up comic, high school instructor or both
Recognizing my sociable nature, Bob placed me as a clerk in the store. I blossomed in my new responsibilities, chatting easily with customers. Another skill I gained and carried with me.
I tried other tasks, my awkward farm hands tying corsage bows, filling tiny envelopes with floral preservatives and barely typing addresses for newsletters. I gleefully worked the storefront, answered phones, and dusted terrariums on ingenious homemade shelves. Memorizing soil amendments and insect repellents. Glad for time away from the dirt!
Despite a pleasant personality, I am clumsy and was often tired from these long days. I broke glass pieces against the bare concrete and created a bit of chaos. I retained the knowledge that this family business imprinted on me. I worked my way through college in small landscaping and floral companies.
During slow retail times, I was relegated back to soil mixtures and flower seedlings. But I whispered and sung sweetly, then, to the sprouts…peppers, petunias, salvia, and celosia As I do yet, reminding them of their proud Latin legacy.