There is an oak tree out my window with a knot the size of my head growing on its spine. My father is too old to cut the branches and during thunderstorms they slightly tap against my bedroom window. I imagine this is the sound a lighthouse would make if it spoke. I can hear the bird that comes every spring and vacations through summer on its branch. I’ve always been a tree hugger, whisperer, petter, climber. I collected their leaves between petaled pages and felt their veins like I was feeling a lover’s hand.
This is all to say: I’ve never been a flower girl.
In fact, I’ve been the opposite of a flower girl (I may have performed the task in someones wedding before I had knew what choice meant). I’ve been the girl who actively demanded not receiving flowers. “They just crumple and die.” “What do you do with roses who have been so inbred that they no longer smell.” “There’s nothing better than a dandelion and after five seconds, you’ve blown it to bits and weeds.” Yep, that’s me in my teenager years, and then my college dating life. Oh geez.
When you realize you’re wrong, you usually admit it right? Instead of going against flowers now, I actively seek them out. I refuse to step on the weeds growing along the bottoms of brick buildings (it’s like stepping on sidewalk cracks, my poor grandmother). On walks, I steal and eat honeysuckle hanging by the neighborhood creek. It’s a fashion statement to put azaleas behind the crook of my ear.
Due to my new flower-fashions, I’ve been reading flowery books, books with words that bloom. I like to think of books as Morning Glories. They bloom, and glow, and then they close back up and wait for the next person that whispers their name into the cover and fingers the binding. You can imagine that I was greedy about getting my hands on The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh. You can also imagine that I will be planning my wedding flowers according to Victoria’s flower box. I’m also going to be diving into research about the Victorian idea of flower-courting, those petal-pushers! (Har Har).
Let me tell you, it wasn’t easy getting this book. I was number 78 on the waiting list at the library. I even tried to get the large print version (it only had five people on the waiting list) but those five people were reading at a turtle pace, and not the kind of turtle that beats the hare.
Because I’m a hare type of person, I like a book with short chapters. It helps me read because I can say, “oh, just one more,” when I should be under the covers and snoring. I can read it and finish a chapter during a commercial break or at a stoplight. Short chapters really get competitive (and a-personality) people like me to finish the book in a ridiculous pace. Plus, the pacing of this book is magical anyway. Every other chapter is told from a different period in Victoria’s life. In one set she is a girl of the foster care system who after turning ten has been left to age-out in too many group homes to count. The other set is told from the point when she ages out of the group home (evicted) and gets a job working with the only thing she knows, flowers.
It’s really a brilliant story. It’s not a mystery, or a thriller and I was hard-pressed to put the book down until I found out what happened between Victoria and Elizabeth. I don’t really want to go any further than that because some of you may not have read this book yet. Part of what makes this book wonderful is that Diffenbaugh wrote what she knew. She has a charity dedicated to children in the foster care system and has her own foster children as well. She knew what and who she was writing for when she picked up that pen everyday.
Plus, this book hits home for me because I (only for one more week) work at a teen center. After reading this – I am devastated and scared for my teens who are living in a group home, on the verge of aging out. They’re all still so awkward, and not yet adult. They still have pimples and unwashed hair. I have one girl who is in foster care because she was a harm to her family and to herself living in her normal-family home. However, this same girl is the one who braids my hair every Sunday and lets me keep the hair-tie until next time. It’s a strange world.
And then, the flowers. Of course I read this book for the flowers.
In Language of Flowers, I learned how to properly cut the thorns off of roses making them perfect for holding. Victoria teaches people to believe in their own vision of love through the petals, and the smells, and the genus’ of flowers. I wish we could bring back the flower courtships from the Victorian Era (not the corsets). I would love to see girls in their bedroom windows scanning the pages of a flower dictionary holding a bouquet of acacia after their secret tryst in a barn last night. I can imagine them still smelling of hay, still finding small sheds stiff as dried grass in their hair. They’re licking their finger to turn the page and find the right flower, the right shape and petal size. What does this mean about my love. And then finding it, finding out through this plucked stem that someone loves them back.
He loves me.
He loves me not.
He loves me.