Monday, April 6, 2009

Nature's Finest

I really miss Albertsons grocery store. They always had such fine flowers, three for ten bucks. Some Publixes have that, but not the Publix near me at Pasadena. I've always preferred cut flowers to plants because they're already dead. I don't feel responsible when their petals drop off and their leaves get slimy. With a real, living plant, there's always the possibility -- nay, the inevitability -- that it'll die and I'll feel bad. Even if it doesn't exactly die right away, I assume the blossoms -- so crisp and beautiful in the too-cold grocery store -- will lift their delicate leaves to their eyebrows and faint away in the warmth of my apartment. Sometimes I even think they're programmed to require Hospice as soon as they leave the store.

However, I had a reason to be on the southside a couple days ago, so I went to that Publix and got the cheap flowers. I got two stems of white lilies. The clerk assured me that the white ones have the strongest fragrance and, indeed, the aroma is absolutely gorgeous. The five flowers were completely closed when I bought them and only two of them are open now, so I expect a week or two of pleasure from these.

I also bought a potted plant, but I'm determined not to feel bad when it begs for mercy. Here's my rationale: I've already so enjoyed its powerful perfume that if it keeled over right now, I'd still feel I got my seven dollars' worth.

It's a three-headed purple hyacinth. The scent brings me back to spring in Western New York, to Easter Sunday, with sometimes a new dress and always an Easter basket. We had daffodils out back behind the snowball tree. There were irises along the driveway and lilies-of-the-valley on the other side of the porch. Tulips lined the sidewalk leading to the porch. There was also some big-headed flower I can't remember and never much liked -- it always had bugs in it -- but it was a summer flower, so let's ignore it for now.

The thing is, all those flowers were planted by someone else, by whoever owned the house before we did. But they bloomed the whole thirteen years that I lived there.

The first phone number I can remember started with Hyacinth-3. People only two or three years older than I remember when they rang up the operator just to call their grandmother down the street. They'd ask for Hyacinth-3-2558. By the time I came along, though, we dialed all our calls, using HY for the hyacinth. A couple years later, it became -- and remains -- 49.

Hyacinths were easy flowers to make in grade school, using purple tissue paper cut into circles the size of a fifty-cent piece. Yes. As long as we're amblng down Girlhood Road, let's not use quarters. I sort of remember putting library paste down on the flower shape, and then taking a purple circle and bunching it up against the eraser end of a pencil, and twisting it onto the glue.

Oh, who knows?

But I do know that Mom decorated at least one cake with hyacinths, using a single blop of the tip for each small petal. That sounds so tedious, and yet that's how I paint cars (with sponges, not cake-decorators, Sonny!), and I find it both soothing and stimulating.

I intend to plant my hyacinth out under that oak. I'll wait till the blooms drop off. I wonder if they do it one petal at a time or if the whole thing thuds to the floor.

In another burst of Mother Nature doing Her thing, I was outside waiting for Sunny to move when I saw a lazy bug fly under a palm frond. It had long legs hanging down, like a kid sitting on a dock. There were even knees. I pushed away some foliage to get to the frond and underneath was a wasp house the size of a kiwifruit. A couple adolescent wasps were floating around.

Hmm. This is right next to my screened-in porch. I don't want wasps there. Well, really, I don't want any bugs anywhere, except I know (vaguely) that Bugs Are Good. I only like bugs in theory. Still, I'd rather discourage than flat-out kill.

So I cut that frond off. That disturbed some more young wasps. Mittens almost went for one, but I believe she makes a point to be languorous whenever I'm around. I think it's a ploy to get more fish. "See, Barbara?" she's saying. "If I had more fish, I'd have more energy."

Well, I almost put that frond in the trash can, but I envisioned the garbage man lifting the lid and having a small swarm of young but determined angry wasps on his hands ... er, face. So I just left the frond on the ground, house-side up.

A nest, by the way, is just too cozy a name for wasps.

And the last Nature's Finest story is this ... I went to Nature's Finest, our mismanaged health food store, the other day. It looks like a convenience store in a bad neighborhood from the outside. And employees sit at the outdoor table and smoke. Jeeze. Everything's over-priced, which I guess is normal for a health food store, but even Publix's ground-peanuts peanut butter is cheaper than Nature's Finest. I went in one day and saw a display of empty boxes for aromatherapy patches. That same display was still there three days later.

I used a gift card,which is a lovely thing, for my purchases. Well, the clerk wanted to know if the card would cover the bill. I don't know. She sighed. The card was four bucks short. No problem. I have another gift card (yay!). That inspired another sigh and another query about the amount on the card, the answer to which -- "I don't know" -- produced yet another sigh.

It's my opinion that if it's such a huge problem to not know the balance before the transaction begins, then it's up to Nature's Finest to find a better card. Surely it can't be up to the customer to remember the balance.

The clerk taped the receipt, which also recorded the card's balance, to my gift card, like Mommy safety-pinning the mittens to the snowsuit. And like a recalcitrant child, I snatched the receipt off the card in front of the clerk's eyes.

She sighed.

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