The flower department in my local grocery store is basic, both in the “average white girl” sense of the word and in its offerings. In fact, it’s so unremarkable that 364 days out of the year I ignore it completely on my way to the produce section. On that other day, I venture into a maze of gaudy mylar balloons, houseplants stuffed into kitschy seasonally appropriate pots, and racks of sappy greeting cards. It is a silly place, but I love being there in the lead-up to Valentine’s Day. Inside that cramped space, I can author a story of love for my wife in Gerber daisies and baby’s breath.
True, the internet is stuffed with flower delivery services. With a few taps and clicks, I can choose a bouquet — probably a nicer one than I can get at the grocery — and send it like a cupid’s arrow to my beloved’s office desk. Her female coworkers will make soft, wistful, “awwwww” sounds. Her male coworkers will make jokes. And she will blush and smile and send me a grateful, loving, text. But there’s something missing in all of that convenience — me.
If it’s truly the thought that counts, delivery flowers don’t count for much. You literally need to know nothing about the person you’re buying them for (unless they are deathly allergic to tulips). The right card to attach to such an arrangement would read as follows: “My dearest, a corporate focus group exposed to this generic bouquet suggests you will be one of 80 percent of American women between the ages of 25 and 50 who will enjoy this type of thing.”
That’s why I prefer to step into the grocery store flower department, stand before the white buckets of flowers, and pick a unique bouquet for my wife. Plucking the blooms from their chilly water buckets requires thought and time. It requires a sense of visual balance and aesthetic. And if you’re not particularly inclined to those types of things, gathering a bouquet can be a difficult task. Regardless, the end result, as wild and texturally chaotic as it might be, represents an effort made and genuine thought.
That’s what I love about assembling a Valentine’s Day bouquet for my wife. I love the feeling of the wet stems of the cut flowers in my hands. I love considering their shape, their smell, and their color. I love that I know my wife loves big Gerber daisies. I love remembering that she prefers wild unruly blooms over the tightly curled petals of roses. I love picking out the color palette she adores with its powder blues, pale greens, and soft oranges. And in the end, what I’ve built is a physical representation of my loving memories of her. Also, importantly, flowers are beautiful even in the most aesthetically strange bouquet.
And the final joy in gathering this bouquet that’s as unique as the love for my wife? Placing it in her hands, wrapped in crinkly plastic. Because at that moment when we kiss and threaten to crush the flowers between us, there is no doubt as to what these flowers mean and who they came from — gathered in love and given in love, from the nondescript and yet magical flower department of the local grocery store. It might not be much, but it’s better than anything you can get on the internet.