By: Barronelle Stutzman
Mother’s Day is the biggest holiday in my floral shop. We work 12 to 14 hour days filling the orders that come pouring in. It warms my heart seeing how much people love their moms.
And I’m no exception.
My relationship with my mom growing up was pretty typical. We had our fights, as mothers and daughters often do. But I always loved her, and she taught me so much.
My mom always insisted that my sister and I clear off the table immediately after dinner and do the dishes before anything else. I would hover and snatch up everyone’s dishes as soon as their plate was empty because I wanted to move on to something else as quickly as possible. That really used to annoy my mom.
Years later, I found it quite funny when I insisted that my own children clear the dinner table and do the dishes. Isn’t it interesting how things like that stick with you?
As it turns out, a lot of things my mom used to do stuck with me over the years.
She loved the Lord, and because of that, she was very generous. Our door was always open to others. I remember sharing many holidays with strangers gathered around our table – people who didn’t have anywhere else to go. My mom welcomed them with open arms.
My mom also loved flowers and floral art. She had a bouquet on our dining room table constantly. And she dreamed of one day opening her own floral shop.
Eventually, she made that dream a reality. My mom left her job in the chemistry department of General Electric to open a floral shop with two other ladies. When that didn’t work out, she bought Arlene’s Flowers – the shop that I now run.
I didn’t always share that love of floral art with my mom, though. In fact, I was not originally interested in the floral industry at all.
But after a few years of experiencing “Girl Friday” around Arlene’s Flowers – running errands, making deliveries, and being trained in floral design – I began to fall in love with it. I realized how exciting it is to create original floral designs expressing all kinds of messages.
I bought Arlene’s Flowers from my mom when she developed Alzheimer’s. And I had the privilege of taking care of her for three years – only a drop in the bucket compared to the many years she took care of me. Yet those three years were filled with some of the fondest memories I have of her.
Now, my daughter works alongside me at Arlene’s Flowers, which would have made my mom so happy to see.
But what would have made Mom really sad is knowing that the Attorney General of the State of Washington, along with the ACLU, is suing me because I declined to use my artistic talent to celebrate an event that violates my religious beliefs. We are blessed to serve all types of customers, with differing faiths and beliefs, but we can't express every message or celebrate every event that is asked of us.
Serving customers well is something my mom taught me through example.
She treated every customer with love and respect. She wanted to make everyone happy by providing a unique floral arrangement that captured just the right message they were hoping to express. That’s what made her a great saleswoman.
At one point, I remember her telling me that she had sold someone a “singing bouquet,” which, as the name suggests, would be a bouquet that included a song. This was something we had never done before, and she wanted me to figure out how to make that happen. Without any better ideas, I decided to provide the singing. So there I found myself in a bank, holding a bouquet of flowers and singing “You Light up My Life” to a stranger in the lobby. It certainly wasn’t my proudest moment – but it goes to show you how much my mom wanted to bring a smile to each of her customer’s faces.
That’s something I strive to do as well.
My mom passed away 11 years ago, but her legacy is alive and well, both at Arlene’s Flowers and at home. We still have big family dinners, which have grown even larger with 24 grandchildren and 5 great-grandchildren. And we welcome strangers who have nowhere else to go. We start by saying grace, and end by clearing off the table.
Now that I’m older, I realize that one of life’s greatest gifts is being a mom and getting to watch your children grow up and lead happy lives. That’s what my mom did for me, and it’s what I hope to do for my children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.
Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. I love you.