Red carnation on black-red


The town florist loved Mother’s Day. He sold most of the carnations that were taking up one of his greenhouses. Each plant could only have one flower to insure each flower was as large as possible. He hired kids like myself, for 25 cents an hour, to snap off any buds that dared to share the plant with the special bud. The greenhouse contained about 3/4th red carnations and 1/4th white.

He opened shop very early that Sunday to service everyone, even those going to early Mass. As each male walked in, the florist’s wife had a bloom of the correct color to sell him. A red one meant the man’s mother was alive. A white one signified that she wasn’t. Mother’s Day was a suit and tie Sunday with a carnation pinned in the suit’s lapel. If you were old enough to wear a suit, you were old enough to wear a flower to honor your mother.

I paid for my red carnation with money I had earned. It cost three hours of pay. It should have cost four but I got the employee’s discount.

After Mass, the mothers usually went home and cooked a big special meal, complete with a home-made pie, because it was a special day. The males in the family took off their ties when they sat down to eat, but left the carnation in the lapel. After the meal, they took off their suit coats, rolled up their sleeves and helped with dishes. After all, it was the least they could do seeing as how it was Mother’s Day.

It’s been a long time since I could have worn a red one, and I never did wear a white one. The tradition was long gone by then. Now, it is a gift, a Hallmark card, and taking Mothers out to eat. We are making some progress in honoring our Mothers, even if we have left the tradition of wearing a carnation by the wayside.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the Mothers. We love you with or without a flower in our lapel.

The Old Hand

Published, St Paul Dispatch BB 5/2/14


    • Sorry, Anne. I never had the privileged of working or even seeing Jimi Hendrix. But I do have a lot of his music. The only thing I have in common with Jimi is we were both paratroopers, he was 101, I was 82nd. He came in the Army a little after I got out.

      • Like a lot of paratroopers, Hendrix enlisted on the advice of a judge. Enlist or do a little time. And like a lot of paratroopers, he had a problem with Army life. He survived by playing in small clubs around the post, and of course at the Officers Club.

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