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What’s in a name?

Not that we visited flower shops often when I was a child. There were not many and matter of fact. I think our town had just two, covering the size of Surrey. If you lived at the north end of the county, you tended to go to one and if you lived at the south end, you tended to go to the other. Simples.

This Florist was in a detached building with a (imagine American-style) side porch. When you walked in, all you smelled was eucalyptus and a bit of cold ‘dampy’ florals. The carpet probably contributing to moisture levels. The air conditioning was always full blast and the flower chiller was filled to the brim with arrangements, mostly overstuff with gyp. Perhaps it was the lollipop I got on the exit, but I was hooked on that flower shop and all it’s wonderful, delightful contents. I remember sitting in my parent’s green 1971 Torino, riding through the town, windows down on a summer day, looking out for the pretty building that smelled so nice. It is one of my earliest memories and one that obviously made an impression.

As any of my closest childhood friends can tell you …I was about 8 years old when I knew I wanted to be a florist. I was about 10 years old when I decided I wanted to live in Paris, above a bakery. I was about 12 years old when I decided that I wanted to live in Paris, above a bakery, be a child psychologist and have 8 adopted children. I still wanted to be a florist though, so I decided that the bakery was going to sell flowers and I’d work there on Saturdays. Not sure who was going to look after the children while I made dreamy bouquets and conversed with my fancy French customers; my imagination, I suppose. But as a country gal, the idea of the sights and sounds and smells of the 'big city' was always a fascination for me. It was the commotion, the energy. I always knew I wanted to live in a metropolis. Paris was going to tick that box.

The Petal Pusher was conceived during an excursion through Washington DC. It was the summer of 1994 and on a very East Coast kind of hot and humid day, while gridlocked in the heart of the city, in heavy traffic, a bicycle courier caught my eye, for two reasons. 1. The guy on the bike was incredibly lean and athletic so I thought that perhaps that would be the job I would do the following summer (I was fitness obsessed at this time) and 2. The courier bag on the bike had the name ‘The Petal Pusher’ emblazoned on it. In the bottom left corner there was a flower logo. It was that moment, with the sun streaming down, the streets bustling, full of busy, happy people going about their day that I told myself that I would own a flower shop one day and it would be called ‘The Petal Pusher’.

During the time around 1993-94, needing some money during my studies, I worked as a receptionist at a hair salon while studying in University. I had always worked, starting out babysitting at an early age, then on a charter boat (fishing, very early hours) at the age of 13, then working in a bakery (more early hours) at 15,16. That was great fun as it was with my good friends and we used to finish our shifts and shut the shop, eating all the leftover donuts. Then I went to work in a restaurant as a bus girl, dish washer, kitchen expeditor, food prep, omelette maker, server and the occasional cocktail waitress (the latter being the worst of the worst). All by time I was the ripe old age of 19.

The hair dress that I worked at as located across the street from a large, family run flower shop. A Baltimorean Classic – large awnings, old style writing and signs. As I sat at reception, day in and day out, booking in and cashing out customers with their beautifully coiffed hair, I used to daydream about the flowers across the street wondering what beautiful and fanciful things the florists were creating for their customers. I had written cover letters and sent my CV to them (and pretty much every other florist within a 10-mile vicinity), begging for work. Please just let me sweep the floors, no pay expected. Please let me just come and condition the flowers, no pay expected. I went door to door to door until the fear of being classified as a nutcase made me finally give up.

I remember dumping my woes on Bob, one of the hairdressers, about my frustrations. He was an eccentric chap who didn’t talk to me too much. He was usually fully booked so we didn’t have much time for banter. On an unusually slow day, I recall telling him about my indecisiveness on what to do, how I didn’t know what to major in, how I didn’t know how to pay for it and about how all I really wanted to do was be a Florist. His demeanour was always a bit sterile, permanently poker faced. Perhaps he was a happy chappy inside but on the exterior, it never showed. Anyhow, Bob just looked at me with his classic deadpan expression and said, ‘listen kid, study business and then you can own your own place. You can be whatever you want to be’.

So, with those words of wisdom, I did not follow, I joined the US Army Reserve taking my boots down a completely different path. A patriotic path that I loved and cherished with every step throughout that journey. It was an experience bar none and perhaps one I wouldn’t do today but at that moment in my life it, those moments of institutional and financial insecurity, I found a home amongst compatriots who were in similar situations to me. There was a comradery that I embraced like no other. The hard work, determination, sacrifice, reward, nowhere else had I ever experienced this. The training was tough, both physically and mentally but it was well worth it. The break from juggling education and work was welcomed and it gave me a clarity that I couldn’t have found otherwise.

‘The Petal Pusher’ never left my mind, it was the story that I told everyone. I focused on finishing my education and starting my career. Sometimes survival mode doesn’t give space for creativity. The start of this blog became the story that I used to tell people. How one day I’d be a florist and my shop would be called The Petal Pusher. Perhaps the name wouldn’t mean much to people, but it brought back that eureka moment from when I saw that courier bag in the bright sunshine of that happy, buzzing city. My epiphany. This story was always on repeat, but it was comforting to have something to aspire to. It gave me a self-defined identity that was different to my friends, even if it felt like nothing more than a pipedream.

Then, for many years, life just kind of happened. Even if the most perfect script was written for me, I would have never guessed that I’d eventually make that dream a reality. There is a full 'War and Peace' length novel between my early 20's and to when we opened the shop, however I am going to leave those chapters for when Hollywood is interested in buying my story.

So for now folks, for all of you that have asked over the years ‘Where’d you get the name The Petal Pusher?’ now you know.

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