Monday, February 1, 2016

A Bouquet of Joy

Thought for the day:  There are always flowers for those who want to see them. [Henri Matisse]

To those of you who are visiting for the first time because of this Valentine's blogfest, welcome! To Arlee Bird, thanks so much for coming up with this cool idea, and to all of his co-hosts, thanks for supporting it. To my regulars, who are wondering why the heck Swiderski is posting on a Monday... I say again... blogfest!!! I hope you'll stick around, even though it isn't our usual Friday rendezvous, and this isn't my usual subject matter. (If there even is such a thing.) Clicking on the badge in the sidebar will whisk you away to a list of other participating bloggers, so if you'd like, you can check out all kinds of offerings about love, both lost and found.


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Anyone who has spent time away from home knows how much it means to receive a letter, and this is especially true for soldiers. Particularly during wartime. Those letters provide a much-needed tether back to the world, and offer hope in the midst of horror.

This is a picture of Smarticus during the Vietnam war, writing me a letter. Being out in the field, he couldn't do that as often as he'd like, but I wrote to him multiple times a day, both to help preserve his sanity, and to try to preserve my own. Mail was dropped to the guys from a helicopter, but most of the time, they had to destroy those letters after reading them. They had no place to keep them, and the last thing they needed was additional weight to carry.

Although times have changed, and modern day soldiers have other ways to keep in touch with their loved ones, I believe hand-written letters are still very important. They're life lines. Smarticus and I were already married when he was in Vietnam, but I truly believe it's possible for people who have never met in the world to establish a real relationship through letters. That's the basis for my blogfest offering, which I call The Language of Flowers. I hope you enjoy it.

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       Ex-sergeant Cullen Smith paused to admire the florist shop window. Just as he expected, the Say it with Flowers graphics were cheerful, welcoming, and a perfect reflection of the owner’s personality. He took a deep steadying breath, and dried his hand on the front of his shirt to get a better grip on his cane. No sense taking any chances. He was getting around like a pro on his new leg now, but he didn't want to risk screwing up her first face-to-face impression of him by falling on his keister. No, not now, not when he was so close. This was the day he'd been dreaming of for months. He was finally going to meet his guardian angel.
      The bell above the door jingled merrily to announce his entrance into the shop. He stepped inside and looked around at her dream come true. Nice. Very nice… but where was she? Maybe his mother was right; maybe he should have called first. Maybe he should have warned her.
      Then the sweetest-sounding voice he'd ever heard called to him from the back room. “Just a sec! Be right there!”
      That was her voice. That was Angelica.
      His heart pounded against his ribcage, and then, there she was. Finally. Right there, standing right in front of him. Smiling at him. The first thing he thought was she looked just like the picture she’d sent him, the one he’d carried in Iraq and propped up beside him when answering her letters, and the one he’d found in the pocket of his robe when he finally regained consciousness in the hospital.
      No, scratch that. She looked even better in person. No fold marks through her face.
      Angelica felt a slight tug of recognition in her soul when she looked at the man with the semi-scruffy beard, but she couldn’t quite place him. She was immediately drawn to his eyes, though. They were an unusual shade of blue-green, and somehow managed to express the depths of both sadness and hope at the same time. Mesmerizing.
      “Sorry to keep you waiting,” she said. “How can I help you?”
      Cullen hesitated. He should have known this would happen. She obviously didn’t recognize him, but why should she? He barely recognized himself as the clean-shaven, scar-free soldier in the picture displayed on the shelf behind her. With a tenuous smile, he cleared his throat, and said, “I’d like to send flowers to someone to let her know how I feel about her.”
      “Terrific! That’s my specialty,” she said, grabbing a scratch pad. “We’ll even include a cheat sheet to interpret the meanings for her. Okay, so what would you like to say?”
      “I want her to know I’m her secret admirer.”
      Lucky girl, she thought. “That would be yellow mums,” she said, noting it on her pad.


      “And I want to thank her,” he said. “To express my deepest gratitude. No matter how tough things were, she kept me going.”
      “Nice,” she said. “Pink carnations.”

      “I want to ask her to remember me forever,” he said, looking at her intently. “Just as I’ll always remember her. Her letters kept me alive.”
      Angelica’s hand shook slightly as she held it over the pad. “Forget-me-nots,” she whispered, before daring to look at him again. Daring to hope.

      “I love her,” he said around a lump in his throat.
      “Red,” she said, with tears in her eyes. “Roses or tulips. Your choice.”

      “No, your choice, Angelica. The flowers are for you. It’s me. Cullen. I got here as soon as I could.”
      She came out from behind the counter with tears flowing freely down her cheeks. “It’s about time,” she said, while wrapping her arms around him.
      “Thank you for everything,” he said. “Your letters meant the world to me when I was in Iraq. When I came out of the coma, there was a whole pile waiting for me. You even wrote when I couldn’t answer. How can I ever tell you how much that meant to me? How much you mean to me? Ever since you wrote me the first time, I told you I’d come see you when I got back home. Sorry it took me so long.”
      She smiled up at him. “You already told me. With flowers. And if I had some, I’d respond with a sprig of ambrosia.”

      “Which means…?”
      “Your love is reciprocated.”
      With a silent prayer of thanks, he held her close, rocking her from side to side. He kissed her with an aching sweetness, and said, “Too soon to propose?”
      She laughed, and said, “Um, yeah, a little. I think we should go on at least one date first, don’t you?  But when we’re ready, I’ll fill the church with birds of paradise for our wedding.”

      He raised an eyebrow.
      She smiled. “Joy,” she said. “They symbolize joy.”



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My joy then...

And now.


Since I'm posting today, I won't be doing a post on Friday, which happens to be Smarticus' birthday. (So I may be busy peeling grapes all day...) Seeya again next week, and every... okay, most... Fridays after that. (Ya never can tell when another blogfest might pop up.)

          Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

If I had a flower for every time I thought of you, I could walk in my garden forever. [Alfred Lord Tennyson]

Love is the flower you've got to let grow. [John Lennon]

Flowers are the music of the ground from earth's lips, spoken without sound. [Edwin Curran]

Keep love in your heart. A life without it is like a sunless garden when the flowers are dead. [Oscar Wilde]

116 comments:

  1. Susan, this was so beautiful. More so because of your history. Wow!
    I loved the pictures but the language of the flowers added so much.
    Thank you for participating in loves - Lost & Found!

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    1. Thanks, Yolanda. I'm glad you liked it. (Even if it didn't have any monsters or gore in it at all!)

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  2. Oh Susan, lovely entry. Love the smattering of fact and fiction combined. Hope Smarticus has a great birthday. The flowers idea was priceless! Love the beautiful pictures. And the quote: There are always flowers for those who want to see them. [Henri Matisse] Really a super entry for the blogfest.
    And, yes, another blogfest might pop up. Sign ups start today for the WEP Valentine's blogfest, if I could be so cheeky as to suggest you join us for a feast of flash fiction, poetry etc to celebrate or lampoon love...Yolanda and I are hosting this one!

    Denise :-)

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    1. Thanks, Denise. It was kinda fun participating in this blogfest, so ya never know. I may hop into the next one, too. (It's the only exercise I get... )

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  3. Thanks for sharing these beautiful sentiments with us. Being hopelessly old-fashioned, I think that handwritten letters of affection and love are priceless treasures. It's a shame that such traditions are passing away.

    (holy crap, I'm starting to sound like I'm 100)

    "The Language of Flowers" is a beautiful start for February.

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    1. BTW - your new post is back on my Blogger Dashboard this time! Yay!

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    2. After reading your poetry book, I'm not at all surprised to hear how you feel about the tradition of letter-writing. (I can't even begin to tell you how much I loved your book. I'll write a review as soon as I have time to do it justice.)

      YAY! I'm glad to hear I'm back "on a roll" again... :)

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  4. My eyes are sweating. Badly.
    Thank you.

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    1. Sweaty eyes, eh? Well, it HAS been pretty hot there down under...

      :) I'm glad you liked it.

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  5. yes! a beautiful arrangement with so much meaning!!

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  6. Your story is so sweet! Falling in love by letters, then finally meeting; what a wonderful thing to happen.

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    1. Thanks! I'm glad you liked it. It would be a wonderful thing to fall in love through letters, and I have no doubt that it happened to many people. :)

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  7. Such a beautiful post! The second one that brought tears of happiness to my eyes. I come from a family of veterans, including my hubby and my son. Thank you for your special one's service too.

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    1. Thanks. I'm glad you enjoyed it, and since your hubby and son were veterans, too, maybe that helped you relate to it. (One of our sons was, also.) Being separated from our soldiers makes us appreciate them even more when they return, doesn't it? Much appreciation to your hubby and son for their service.

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  8. Letters sure can make the heart grow fonder. The flower idea was great indeed.

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    1. Yes, letters are very precious. I still have a box filled with every letter Smarticus sent me. :)

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  9. So, so precious. I love the story, and your backstory. I sent my hubby away for two years before we were married, and it was the hardest thing I'd ever done. I can't imagine sending a loved one to war.

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    1. It's never easy to send a loved one away, whether it's because of military duty or to be a missionary, or to serve in the Peace Corps. It's tough, but it's also a good thing. Relationships that are strong enough to weather a separation are usually doomed to success. :)

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    2. Too true. As hard as it is, that's definitely the case.

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  10. a perfect post, Susan. Great story and backstory and pictures and everything. Very heartfelt. You made my day

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    1. Thanks, Joanne. I'm glad you liked it. Sorry you didn't stop by on Friday, because I posted a teeny weeny snowman just for YOU! (Alas, his life was very short...)

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  11. I love the meanings of the flowers and how they fit so well with this story. Huzzah!

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    1. Thanks. I had a lot of fun researching the meaning of various flowers.

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  12. I was wondering where your Friday post was.
    What a lovely post today and I am so happy you still have your Smarticus with you.

    cheers, parsnip

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    1. Hi-ya. I did a short post on Friday, but for whatever reason, it didn't show up on anyone's blog roll.

      I'm glad you liked today's post. I'm happy to still have Smarticus with me, too. We really lucked out.

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  13. Aww, now you've gone and made me cry!
    Lovely, Susan, just lovely!

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    1. Sorry. And thank you. I'm really glad you liked it.

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  14. Very moving and well-composed vignette. I love how it connected with letters two people half a world apart, then continued in flower-language when they finally meet. Brava, Susan.

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  15. Beautiful, and so moving. Thank you for sharing, Susan. Happy [early] birthday to Smarticus. Hope you have fun plans for Friday!

    VR Barkowski

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    1. Thanks. It means a lot to me that you liked it.

      Heck, we have fun plans for EVERY day! That's the great thing about retirement. :)

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  16. That was a moving story. Was it really what happened? Because that's really awesome.

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    1. Thanks. It may have happened for some couples, but not for us. We were already married when he went overseas.

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  17. I used to write letters all the time, I've lost that beautiful art ever since computers became the norm. I actually had lovely penmanship which I no longer have (it's pretty much chicken scratchings)

    I liked hearing about you and Smarticus's story.. how sweet that you wrote so many letters to him when he was away ♡

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    1. I was always a big letter-writer, but I don't have anyone left who cares to communicate that way. Too bad.

      Yeah, it was kinda ridiculous how often I wrote to him. Anywhere from one to five letters a day, and a "care package" every Friday. Of course, postage was a lot cheaper back then. :)

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  18. That was absolutely beautiful. Damn girl.

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  19. How do you expect me to comment when I'm crying?

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  20. Love the story!

    Happy birthday to Smarticus. Peeling grapes???

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    1. Thanks. I'm glad you did.

      HA! I wondered if anyone would ask about the grapes. That refers to a line from an old Mae West movie. :)

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  21. Happy birthday, Smarticus.

    I'm loving these blogfest entries. They're really touching our hearts.

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    1. I agree. I've really enjoyed all of the blogfest entries that I've read so far.

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  22. What a fabulous post. Absolutely beautiful. You write beautifully. That florist shop and her musical voice were the key. :-) Have a happy birthday, Smarticus.

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  23. Oh, Susan, that was such a sweet post and a perfect Valentine.

    The retired man and I exchanged letters for 9 months when he was in the service also. In December of last year I found all the ones I had written stored in a box in the basement. They were written 48 years ago by a young woman who was crazy in love and oh so naive and let all her emotions spill out. I made up my mind to destroy them so that my children would never see them, I have shredded most of them and now my mission is to find the ones he sent me and get rid of them also. I read somewhere that George Washington burned all his correspondence with Martha. He knew that somethings should remain private.

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    1. Thanks, Arlene. I'm glad you liked it and were able to relate.

      Unfortunately, all the letters I wrote to Smarticus had to be destroyed shortly after he received them, but I have every single letter from him in a box on the shelf of my closet. From time to time, I pull them out again to re-read. In a way, I can understand why you'd want to destroy your letters, but I doubt if I'll ever do the same. Maybe, but I doubt it. Those letters will someday give our children and grandchildren a closer look at who Smarticus and I were as human beings. Maybe it's naive to think there'd be any value in that to any of them, but that sort of thing would have been very precious to me. You've given me some food for thought, though. Maybe I should consider burning them. But not until I've read them all a time or two...

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  24. Beautiful story Susan, so exhaustively beautiful. To write numerous letters was a show of faith and sincerity. Happy birthday to Smarticus

    Hank

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    1. Thanks, Hank. For me, writing that many letters was an act of desperation. I needed to believe he'd be coming back home, so I wrote feverishly to maintain that hope and connection.

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  25. What a wonderful story!! I loved it. Such a sweet meeting. Love all the flower references too. Thanks for sharing pics of your love, then and now. You two have a beautiful story too!

    Michele at Angels Bark

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    1. Thank you. I'm glad you enjoyed the story. It was a lot of fun researching the meaning of various flowers.

      Yeah, I guess we do have a beautiful story, and thankfully, it's been a long one. :)

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  26. It gave me goose bumps! What a beautiful love story.

    (your Valentine is quite handsome, then and now)

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    1. Woo HOO! Having the queen of romance call my offering a beautiful love story just made my day. :)

      (Thanks. I think so, too.)

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  27. That was beautiful. I've never been in that sort of circumstance, but I can understand how important letters could be. It's been ages since I've gotten a written letter--now emails have taken their place and I don't get many of those either.

    Arlee Bird
    A to Z Challenge Co-host
    Tossing It Out

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    1. Thanks, Arlee. You may not get a lot of emails, but you sure get a lot of comments on your blog!

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  28. Aww, that's a sweet story. My one friend the other day posted on FB about doing something handwritten for VDay and she got a lot of responses.

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    1. Thanks.

      I'm a big fan of handwritten, and homemade things.

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  29. oh my that's sweet and wonderful. I still love getting real letters. Recently, I wrote my aunt a real letter and I got one back. It was a lot of work.

    Teresa

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    1. Thanks, Teresa. Ever since I had my first pen pal in elementary school, I've always loved receiving letters. Alas, I don't have anyone left to share correspondence via postal service anymore. Those who are still alive prefer email.

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  30. STOP! You're making me cry. This was so sweet.

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    1. Okay, I STOPPED. :) Thanks. I'm glad you liked it.

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  31. That was a beautiful story!!!!!

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  32. Awe such a heart-warming story! Happy birthday to Smartacus. :-)

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    1. Thanks, Misha. Always happy to warm the little cockles of your heart. :)

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  33. This is such a sweet post! Happy Valentine's Day to you and Smarticus! :)

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    1. Thanks, Connie. Sweet should be my middle name. No, wait... it should actually be Klutz... or maybe Nerd...? Anyhow, a very Happy Valentine's Day to you, too. :)

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  34. What a beautiful and moving story! Even more so knowing your real life history with Smarticus. I can't begin to imagine how hard that was on both of you.
    Happy Birthday to Smarticus!!

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    1. Thanks. I'm glad you liked it, Julie. (Even without a scary vampire...?)

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  35. Aw, Susan, I'm leaking. Such a tender story with the best ending.

    I wrote my cousin when he was in Vietnam. Letters are still the best to me too. I used to sneak chewing gum in my letters to him.

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    1. Sorry to make you spring a leak there, but I'm glad you liked the story.

      Gum was a good thing to send. I put an envelope of pre-sweetened Kool-Aid in with most of the letters I sent to my husband when he was in Nam. It made the nasty water they had to drink a little more palatable.

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  36. Both components of this blog post were very touching and absolutely beautiful. I really enjoyed your story, almost as much as the love you express for your husband, both in the past and today. That is a truly sweet blessing. Thank you for sharing.

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  37. Beautiful, Susan. I love your heart and that you share it as you do.

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    1. Thanks, girlfriend. I think you're a little biased. :) (And I'm glad you are.)

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  38. Aw, Susan that was just lovely. Truly! Wonderful love tribute to Smarticus! I hope you both enjoy his birthday!

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    1. Thanks, Mina. I'm glad you liked it.

      We're gonna try. If we're in luck, the local market will have some live blue crabs just for us. :)

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  39. Hi Susan - that was beautiful and so interesting to read - your early history, the storyline, the language of flowers and the way of telling Cullen's love ... gorgeous .. and love the photos too. Have a brilliant birthday and weekend together .. Happy Birthday Smarticus .. cheers and catch you soon - Hilary

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    1. Hi-ya, Hilary.

      Thanks. I'm so glad you enjoyed the post. :)

      We will, and you have a super weekend, too. Cheers!

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  40. Such a beautiful piece. Thanks so much for sharing.

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  41. Oh, man... This is a gorgeous, gorgeous story—and sentiment behind it. I'm a fellow advocate of handwritten letters... Sad that they've petered out—cool that we have the technology to communicate instantly, don't get me wrong, but... There's something about a page with someone's unique hand, the ritual of opening the envelope, even the ritual of waiting for the mail. One of my most intense relationships had a chapter of letter-writing—and I've never found any other exchange quite as intense.

    Thank you so much for being a part of the Lost & Found hop!
    Guilie @ Quiet Laughter

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    1. Yes, I'm afraid letter-writing has become a lost art. It used to feel so good to write on beautiful (sometimes scented!) stationery, to feel the scratch of a fountain pen across the paper, and sometimes, to use sealing wax, just for the fun of it. Now it's all about emails and instant messaging. (sigh) Just not the same.

      Thank YOU for being one of the hosts for the hop!

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  42. What an absolutely gorgeous story. Love the flower interpretations and the emphasis on letter writing.

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    1. Thank you so much. I appreciate your comment.

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  43. Beautiful story. Please, wish a happy birthday to the birthday boy! :-)

    Greetings from London.

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    1. Thank you. Now that things are winding down, I think it's safe to say Smarticus had a good day. We had steamed crabs... that always guarantees a good day. :)

      Greetings back atcha.

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  44. Oh, there's something in my eyes...
    Dammit, you snuck that up on me.
    Just lovely. <3
    Happy Birthday to Smarticus, and so much love to you both!
    x

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    1. Thanks, kiddo. (You should know by now how sneaky I can be!)

      It's been a super birthday. Right back atcha.

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  45. SUSKI, sorry I'm so late getting here. My employment schedule has me working 12.5 hour days every Monday through Wednesday (37.5 hours in 3 days), which leaves me no time for anything until Thursdays, when I begin my 4-days "off" from work.

    That was nice story. Heck, I could smell the flowers all the way from here!

    Change the woild with FLOUR POWER!

    ~ D-FensDogG
    'Loyal American Underground'

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    1. Hey! You're not late. Whenever you can get here is just the right time.

      Sounds like a pretty brutal work schedule. I hope you're enjoying life in your new place.

      There's lots to be said for flour power, too. Couldn't make a decent birthday cake without it!

      Take care.

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  46. A very happy birthday to the man of the moment. Today? I hope so.

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    1. Thanks, Sue. It's winding down now, and there's less than an hour left of it. But it's been a good one! Matter of fact, any day we both wake up is a good one. :)

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  47. Aw, what a sweet and touching post! I've been seeing a lot of people participate in this blogfest, and your entry is easily one of my faves for it. Thanks for sharing such a lovely story, and your memories, too! Hope Smarticus had a fantastic birthday!

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    1. Thanks, Heather! Sweet of you to say. Yeah, he had a terrific day. Dang, we sure are getting old! :)

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  48. I think this is one of your best stories ever, Susan! I'm so glad I had Kleenex nearby, because I couldn't stop tearing up. I hope this inspires you to write more short stories. I'm also impressed with your botanical knowledge. Wish Smarticus a very happy belated birthday for me! He looked great then, and has aged very well thanks to you, Susan!

    Julie

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    1. Gee, thanks, Julie. I'm glad you liked it. No, I really don't have that much botanical knowledge, but I DO enjoy doing research. :)

      Hmmm, some could argue that he has aged BECAUSE of me, not thanks to me... HA!

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  49. Brilliant story, Susan. Thanks for sharing it.

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    1. Thank you, dear sir. With all of your success with short stories, I'll take that as quite the compliment. :

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  50. Love all the love that is in this post. Hope hubby had a wonderful birthday. A very handsome older gentleman.
    I do try and stop to smell the roses whenever I can. All flowers should be admired for their beauty.

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    1. Thanks, Mimsie. Yes, my handsome fella had a very nice birthday.

      A agree. Flowers are meant to be enjoyed. (I don't want 'em when I'm dead... I want 'em NOW when I can still appreciate them.)

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  51. blessings.....
    great story.
    I stop to admire the sunsets everyday.

    peace.
    Rhapsody
    http://rappingonamelody.blogspot.ca/
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    https://www.facebook.com/RhapsodyPhoenix
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    http://rhapsodyphoenix.tumblr.com/


    “The highest education is that which does not merely give us information, but makes our life in harmony with all existence”-Rabindranath Tagore

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    1. Thank you. I admire sunsets, too, but I'm an even bigger fan of sunrises. Everything is so quiet in the early morning, and it feels like the world is holding its breath in suspended animation, waiting for the sun to make its appearance. Then the birds sing it all the way up. It never fails to lift my heart.

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  52. Wow, the story is incredible. Brought tears. Now I feel all weepy. Beautiful story. Thanks for sharing photos of your "guy." And thanks for commenting on my story Dear Anne: Love Letters from Nam. Means a lot to me to have you comment. You're such a good writer yourself. Hugs! Barb Oh, Happy Valentine's Day to you and yours.

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    1. Thanks, Barb. Getting positive feedback from other writers always makes me feel extra good. :)

      And a very Happy Valentine's Day to you, too.

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  53. Oh gosh! This had me feeling all fuzzy! I love love! Beautiful!

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    1. Thanks. All fuzzy is a good thing, right...? :)

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  54. Oh gosh! This had me feeling all fuzzy! I love love! Beautiful!

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  55. Wow! I'm feeling all mushy now. Loved this post.

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    1. Thanks, Nas. You're just an ol' romantic softie. :)

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  56. Awww, what a wonderfully sweet story. Alright, I admit, I felt my heart twinge when she realized who he really was. Here, here, take my man card, I rightfully lost it.

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    1. HA! No, you keep that man card. Having a heart doesn't disqualify you. :)

      Delete
  57. wow it was mesmerizing ,you told a really touching stry in beautiful words,

    love is the most soothing emotion and without it all feels like a desert with blowing sand ,may god keep our hearts warm with it ,

    happy birthday to your hubby ,may you both have so many pleasant to come

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    1. Thank you so much. I'm glad my story touched your heart.

      My hubby had a wonderful birthday, and here's to many many more of them. :)

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