MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, CA, UNITED STATES
TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. - The florist is watching a moment. A young boy is peering into a large glass cooler with gold trimmed doors. His grandfather is there, guiding the boy with sagely advice on which of the vibrantly colored flowers to pick.
The choice on color is not as important as making the choice in the first place.
“Now pick which ones you’d like to give your mother,” says the grandfather. “Make sure they’re special.”
The florist smiles. She knows no matter what, they will be.
The florist is Faith Arwick. As owner of A New Creation Flowers and Gifts, she has seen this tradition before.
“He's teaching him how to be a gentleman,” she said. “Obviously, the man wants his daughter to know that she’s special, but more importantly he’s showing his grandson this is what you do for the women you love.”
The beginning of the year, between Valentine’s Day and Mother's Day, is a time when the age-old tradition of giving flowers is the busiest. For Arwick, it’s not only a year-round commitment - it has been a life-long passion.
BLOSSOMING OF A FLORIST
Arwick grew up on Long Island, N.Y., and in some form or another has worked in the same industry since she was young.
“My first job was at a greenhouse in Cutchogue, N.Y.,” Arwick said. “I just pulled weeds, because I was only 13. We would go around to all greenhouses, there were about 100 of them, and by the time we were done going through them all we’d have to start all over again.”
“It’s funny because it seems like every job I’ve ever had has had something to do with plants,” Arwick continued. “The next job I got was another greenhouse and that’s where I learned to do cuttings and things like that.”
During Arwick’s junior and senior years of high school, she and her peers were given the opportunity to spend half their day in their core curriculum and then the other half could be spent at a near-by trade school. She naturally chose to study Ornamental Horticulture.
“The school was great,” Arwick said. “We got to learn everything there was to know and we competed in floral design competitions in the state. Most of my teachers knew the people I worked for so, it was almost like I was expected to know more than the rest of the class.”
SETTING HER ROOTS
Arwick’s road to owning her own flower shop began in a restaurant.
“It’s funny,” she said. “When I would get off work I would come over to this little flower shop and ask if I could just help and do things here and there because I didn’t want to forget everything I’d learned.”
Over the years, Arwick came to work at multiple area flower shops. In 1989, she began working for Country Corner’s flower shop where she remained for 14 years until she bought the store, became the owner and named it A Natural Creation Flowers and Gifts.
Arwick has been a member of Oasis Community Church for 13 years. After her mother passed away, her father moved to Twentynine Palms and began attending the same church, where he would eventually meet his new wife.
“Clara, my father’s wife, is great,” Arwick said. “I saw her at church once, before my father met her and I noticed she had scratches all over her legs. When I asked her what happened, she told me she had fallen out of a tree while climbing it with her nephews. My first thought was that she would be perfect for my father and then, without me playing match maker, they met and eventually got married.”
Arwick was so supportive of her father’s new love, she felt honored to make a bouquet for Clara and a boutonniere for her father to wear in their wedding.
“They went to Vegas for their wedding,” she said. “I think they were trying to elope but we all came anyways. Her bouquet was mainly blue delphinium and veronica flowers with a variety of others. It was really different and pretty.”
BRANCHING OUT TO THE BASE
Arwick has been a part of the community for decades and has provided flowers for the Combat Center equally as long.
“I remember going out to Camp Wilson once to deliver flowers a long time ago,” Arwick said. “I remember thinking it took so long to get out there and I couldn’t believe it was just a bunch of tents out there.”
There is nothing greater than making a bouquet and getting to deliver it to that person, Arwick said. When you see the look on their face, you know that you’ve not only made their day, but brought them closer to their loved one.
Through her years of arranging and delivering flowers for Marines, Arwick has come to see the appreciation they have for their loved ones.
“I love it when Marines send their wives or girlfriends flowers while they’re deployed,” Arwick said. “Once, a guy came in and set it up so his wife received flowers and a card once a month for every month he was gone. The best part was wrote letters to her on six different cards so that she would have a personal, hand-written letter from him each month. I didn’t get to see her reaction when she read the cards, but I saw her excitement every time we brought her the flowers.”
This year, her shop has also provided flowers for events like the Daddy Daughter Dance, the Wounded Warrior Dinner and created presentation bouquets for changes of command and memorials. During the week of Valentine’s Day, Arwick received and delivered orders for more than 300 arrangements to the base.
“Some people don’t always know what sort of flowers to get,” Arwick said. “I love figuring out what they are imagining, because then I have the chance to bring it to life.”
||MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, CA, US
This work, The power of flowers, by Lauren Kurkimilis, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.