Moskatels

Another place I must revisit.  What I would really like to find is Moskatels’ booklet “How to Arrange Christmas Flowers,” from the 1970’s.  Mom and Grandma frequented Moskatels when I was small.   Buckets filled with brightly colored plastic flowers extended endlessly down the aisle in front of me.  Nature’s own polymers within reach, yet the glorious display remained slightly above my line of vision.  If I walked on tip toe and raised my eyebrows high enough, I could witness from my maximum height.

“Don’t touch anything,” Mom would always preface entering a store with that instruction.

“I won’t,”  I promised, half listening, as I pulled a flower out of a shiny, mottled grey bucket, “Oooh, Mom, look at how pretty!”

Moskatels had a distinct smell.  As much as I loved the flowers, the synthetic smell was overpowering.  A sticky, sweet emanation permeated the store.  The odor gave no pause to Mom or Grandma, who seemed to not notice.  Beckoned by seasonal flowers, leaves, cattales, and glittery accoutrements, they became absorbed in a world of creative possibilities.  Back and forth they would compare, remark, and consider, selecting just what was needed for the perfect display.

Pre-silk: in 1970, artificial flowers were made from plastics.

The sizable store had something for everyone.  They even sold synthetic greenery for the easiest-to-care-for house plants.  Mom had a respectable and moderate two such plastic plants.  One was a large palm on the landing of our stairs, the second a broad-leafed plant just inside the front door to the right, with shining white stones at its base.  The individual stems would be pushed into one another as modules, secured with wire, and then wound with green floral tape.  I know this because I would carefully dust both plastic plants weekly, if not more often.

Dusting, by the way, was more frequent in weather which required the windows to be opened.  Nice weather meant Mom would vacuum off the screens so little dust blew in.  Then, on days when the windows were opened and there were breezes to enjoy, Mom would make certain we dusted more often, sometimes daily.  Mom would remove long, thin, wooden sticks from the windowsills on those clement mornings.  As she did so, she would tap me on the head, “I crown you, Queen for a day…”  I loved that.  I just waited for it!  The window sticks, these divining rods, Dad had made so there was an extra slot which fit in below the opposing window.  That way, the window was secure, and a burglar could not dislodge the stick to open the window.  This was high-tech security in the 1970’s, with everything slightly home-brewed.

Mom and Grandma continued to shop Moskatels through the Westlake years.  Grandma A would sit on the black chairs in the family room, with her floral supplies stretched across the large, round table.  No doubt we had enjoyed a lunch of cottage cheese and fruit salad, decorative lettuce leaf beneath to set off the colors, English muffin and butter, jelly service with mini spoon, and (naturally) hot tea dissolving two sugar cubes for Grandma and (naturally) coffee for Mom with a little half and half (later powdered Cremora).   Grandma and Mom might chat as they made holiday arrangements.  Sometimes centerpieces were created for church functions.   The finished pieces were always classy and beautiful.  Mom would compliment Grandma, remarking what a wonderful talent she had.

Years later, that gene passed on to Maya.  She would arrange my silk flowers for holiday vases, and even at a very young age, did a much nicer job than I could.  At five years old, she could mix color, composition, and texture to create the most lovely floral pieces, a talent inherited from her Grandma Mary and Great Grandma.

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