By Bob Spiwak

Christmas is probably my favorite time of the year. 

Over the years past — and there are many of them — there is a clear memory that arises, arcing back to the town of Rumson, New Jersey, and my family’s flower shop and nursery. 

As Christmas drew nearer, flowers were all but forgotten as orders came for specific holiday decorations to adorn the homes of the highly affluent denizens of the town and surrounding areas. Most of the requests were for wreaths. These varied in size and decoration from a foot in diameter to obscenely large for in and out of the homes. 

There were no plastic replicas of decorations in those days. Everything was natural other than satin ribbons that hung from the wreath bottoms, usually red or a mix of that and green. 

It is the memory of the natural materials that tickles my memory glands. From around the country came large cardboard boxes filled with branches of spruce, pine, fir and other trees. From Washington and Oregon came sword fern (referred to as dagger fern) added to the medley of fragrances that permeated the tables and workbenches. We shed the dry needles from the evergreens at one station and these were passed on to the next place where willow branches were converted into hoops. These were passed on to the final phases — wiring greens to hoops and attaching an endless variety of nuts, berries, delicate ferns and varieties of cones.

The odors of all the evergreens seemed to coalesce into the prominent smell, that of coffee emitting from a large percolator, steaming from its perch on a wood-burning pot-bellied stove, an identical one waiting on the floor to relieve the empty vessel.

The final phase was to deliver the wreaths to churches, restaurants, commercial buildings, interior offices and of course, peoples’ homes. When I got my driver’s license, that became one of my duties, and it usually meant there would be tips, other than the places with discreet signs posted that read something like “All deliveries to the rear.” The butlers were lousy tippers.

To put this in perspective, a dime was usual, a quarter was a “wow,” and a dollar, very rare, was Nirvana.

All this took place beginning first of December, never before. Extra help was hired and the atmosphere was instantly changed. It has been unforgettable, despite the changes that have come about in these later years.

into the prominent smell, that of coffee emitting from a large percolator, steaming from its perch on a wood-burning pot-bellied stove, an identical one waiting on the floor to relieve the empty vessel.

The final phase was to deliver the wreaths to churches, restaurants, commercial buildings, interior offices and of course, peoples’ homes. When I got my driver’s license, that became one of my duties, and it usually meant there would be tips, other than the places with discreet signs posted that read something like “All deliveries to the rear.” The butlers were lousy tippers.

To put this in perspective, a dime was usual, a quarter was a “wow,” and a dollar, very rare, was Nirvana.

All this took place beginning first of December, never before. Extra help was hired and the atmosphere was instantly changed. It has been unforgettable, despite the changes that have come about in these later years.

 

 

 

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