Updated: Aug 2, 2021
“ In the very last room, a white haired lady in a flowered nightgown was sitting up in her bed. “Mrs. Ripinski?” I asked shyly. She looked at me, then down at the flowers, and smiled widely. “Oh my goodness,” she said, holding her hands out. "
My mother got me a job delivering flowers for a local florist in Binghamton during the summer after my first college semester. I had been holding out for a first job that didn’t require much interaction with anyone, but she got impatient waiting for me to work and cut the deal herself, telling me the night before that I was starting the next morning. I was so overweight and insecure, I had dreaded the idea of working anywhere that would have required dressing up or wearing a uniform or being in a position where anyone would look at me. Most of my friends had worked during high school, but I rarely left my room during those years of pubescence, covered with the asexual protection of an extra hundred pounds. Then college began, and being with new, worldly and more accepting kids who were more interested in their classes than my appearance, stirred a freedom in me. I felt less helpless, able to begin my initial ascent from years of anxiety and depression. Keeping a journal, I began to take walks, first a few blocks, then a mile, then a few miles, until I was traveling long distances by foot and then by bike, the fat dropping off my body at an alarming rate. I lost thirty pounds during the first six months at the university, and the thrill of doing anything good for myself created, for the first time ever in my life, a flicker of pride, and the hope that I could accomplish something. I arrived at the florist the first day determined, but so nervous I could barely speak. I was given the keys to the van and a local map, shown how to secure the vases for transportation, and handed a list of addresses. I drove out of the parking lot, getting used to the roll of the old vehicle, and turned right toward Vestal, where my first delivery was to a nursing home. I pulled up to the entrance, snapped on my blinking parking lights, took out the large arrangement of gladiolas, and entered the lobby. There was no one at the desk, and empty hallways in either direction, the sound of loud TVs and the smell of sterility and cheap gravy wafting through the air. I waited, but no one came. I checked the card for a name, then walked slowly down one corridor, hoping to find some help, or my recipient. I peered into rooms hoping to see a name scribbled on one of the brown, clipboard charts hanging outside each door. In the very last room, a white haired lady in a flowered nightgown was sitting up in her bed. “Mrs. Ripinski?” I asked shyly. She looked at me, then down at the flowers, and smiled widely. “Oh my goodness,” she said, holding her hands out. I walked into her room and handed the colorful flowers to her, happy that this lonely old woman was my first connection on my first day, and silently hoping that all my deliveries for this new job would be as satisfying. “Thank you, thank you!” she said, tears in her eyes, as I walked out and back down the hallway toward the exit. “Can I help you?” a nurse asked. “I brought flowers for Mrs. Ripinski,” I said, glowing with the confidence of my first assignment so well done. The attendant looked at me, shook her head and pointed up. “Mrs. Ripkinski's on the second floor.”