I hardly ever call florists, but I found myself on the phone with one yesterday, frantically spelling out the kinds of flowers – tulips, yellow and purple – I wanted to be delivered to my mother. I’m only twenty-five, but this felt like a rite of passage. Only adults call florists, I thought. Only adults pay $72 for someone to take the colorful parts of nature and put them on your mother’s doorstep.
For years, my mother and I were agnostic about holidays. We’d look each other in the eye on Mother’s Day and mouth “I love you.” We knew flowers were for corporations. We knew flowers were for anxious suitors, hanging their hopes of eventually having sex with someone on a few evanescent pink petals.
For some reason, I’ve descended into needing them, like a writer needs metaphors when they can’t just say what they mean. I’ve stooped down to having to send a big expensive symbol when I should have probably just picked up the phone.
I’m an adult now, alone in New York City, and flowers are what adults do. Flowers are our symbol of choice – for how you want to say thank you, but also for how nothing is every thankable, and how the million small painful moments when both of you fucked up will just dissolve inside a few tulips.
I thought about sending chocolate, which is something my mom has told me she likes more than flowers, and chocolates are better, I think, because you take them into your body and make them part of you, which is better than the watching something die that happens with flowers.
But chocolates are something my dad always gets for my mom, and I know if I get them for her she might start to think all the time about getting fat, which I wouldn’t want to do to her – I wouldn’t want to give her that kind of mental anxiety, wondering if she should reach for the caramel crème and subconsciously trying to convert everything into Weight Watchers points, so.
Instead I got flowers for my mom, today, and I felt like a man.
I called the florist again this morning, to confirm that they’d been delivered. I gave the address again, and my mother’s name, and I think they could hear my anxiety through the phone. This was about much more than tulips.
This was me trying to be the architect of this relationship. This was me trying to feel like I have the upper hand. This was me saying, like the controlled oblong cup of a tulip, that I can control this. I can control this. I can.
There’s a definite distance between us, these days — sending flowers, especially, underscores that distance, I think. I couldn’t have been at home today, and so I sent a plant’s sex organs as a proxy.
This afternoon, I got a text message: “Thank you for the flowers. They’re beautiful. Love, Mom” I can only hope that she tells other people about them, as she watches them fall apart, and that these ephemeral purple and yellow things do a kind of inverted thing where they grow our love even as we both watch them bend down and die.