Experiences of an American woman who was married to a Serb.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Why You Must Always Count Flowers...

My husband is off to a 50th birthday party for another former Yugoslav friend in the States. Although officially I'm also invited, I wouldn't dream of attending because that would put too much of a crimp on the birthday girl's evening. You can't let loose with hours of drinking, reminiscing about your youth, and then arguing about, "if I were a millionaire and could move back home without needing a job, what would it be like?" if some American citizen too-dumb-to-speak-Serbian is sitting there like a lump in the midst of the revelers. Some effort must be made to speak English, and after a long day at work dealing with all those Americans, it's such a relief to be at a party where everyone speaks your language!

I understand this completely. So, instead of imposing myself, I've rented a romantic comedy that my husband could never get through without making annoying smooching sounds, and have planned a very nice evening alone, thank you very much.

But first, I run out to the south side of our garden where my old pink roses are bursting with their late summer second bloom. "Here you go, give this to her," I thrust a homemade bouquet with the ends carefully wrapped in wet paper towels and a plastic baggie, through the car window as my husband starts the engine.

The next afternoon, however, I get into the car to find a single rose from the bouquet lying shriveled on the dashboard. What happened?

My husband explains. "You made a mistake. It's OK. I fixed. She'll never know you didn't count the roses."

I didn't count the roses? Well, apparently in Serbia bouquets with an even number of flowers are only used for funerals and grave sites. For the living, the bouquet must have an odd number of flowers.

Ever since I learned this I've rather anxiously examined every bouquet in our house. I can never relax and plop whatever into a vase again.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

There is a "rational" explanation for this. When you bring an odd number of flowers you are expressing your wish that the event in question will happen again, and many times preferably (many, many happy birthdays, etc). An even number of flowers mean that you wish that the event will not happen again (no more deaths in the house), in a way as if you were putting a stop to it. Also, I hope that you were not in position to be embarrassed by bringing chrysanthemums to any other person but for the deceased.

My father was an expert in all those “native customs”. I remember a funny and odd scene, when I gave birth to my son and he came to see the child (and leave a golden coin under his pillow, of course; meant to be used for purchasing the bride... somewhere in time...). He looked at all the flowers in the room and pulled me aside to discreetly advise me that “it is better” that I move them outside the room.

Dear Rosemary, your blog is so, so sweet.

Cheers, Ana